If there’s one thing movies love, it’s the high-pressure world of aspiring young artists. It could be the tense relationship between a drummer and his instructor in Whiplash, the surreal competition in Black Swan, or the disappointing lights of Hollywood in La La Land.
But while each of these films tackles the subject from a different angle, none of them truly expose the sophisticated horror of being told you could conquer the world as a child only to have it all ripped away. This 2018 Netflix Original does all that with an artful approach that feels almost dreamlike. Here’s why you need to watch The Perfection right now.
The Perfection is a 2018 psychological thriller directed and co-written by Richard Shepard. It follows Charlotte (Allison Williams), a promising young cello prodigy who quits to take care of her dying mother. Years later, she runs into Lizzie (Logan Browning), the student who took her spot within the prestigious Bachoff academy.
What begins as a simple Count of Monte Cristo-esque story of revenge soon takes a harsh turn as the very system of Bachoff and the music world at large is dismantled from the inside. There are so many twists that won’t be spoiled, but by the end of The Perfection, the film proves itself to be a cult movie on par with Rosemary’s Baby.
While The Perfection is a cult psychological thriller, it’s also an arthouse movie. Finding the line between art and disturbing action is difficult, so writer-director Richard Shepard looked to the gold standard for this genre — Korean master director Park Chan-Wook.
“The movies that I referenced for the actors to watch, and the rest of the crew to watch, like Oldboy and The Handmaiden, which also are full of twists and turns and have sex and violence and all sorts of stuff but they’re done in an artful, beautiful, controlled way,” Shepard told SlashFilm in 2019.
This balance is struck by combining one of the most artistically rigorous disciplines — classical music — with the secretive world of cults. The Perfection also uses techniques like unreliable narrators and split diopters to simultaneously keep everything in focus (literally and narratively) while making you doubt everything you hear and see.
It’s hard to discuss the plot of The Perfection at all without spoiling its excellent twists and turns, but what is obvious from the get-go is the sheer dedication in every decision. Shepard told Comics Beat the film was first and foremost a passion project.
“It was ultimately about the making of the movie,” he said. “Like, this seemed really fun. This seems like a movie I would want to watch... After that, it’s out of my hands. But this is something I was really passionate about.”
But while it’s best to keep the plot vague, the tone of the film — from the haunting cello music to the sickening color grading — takes the line between horrific and high class and plays jump rope with it. If you’re a fan of cult movies, music movies, or any movie where you don’t know what will happen next, this is the one for you.