The Perfect David ****
Starring: Mauricio Di Yorio, Umbra Colombo, Diego Starosta
Director: Felipe Gomez Aparicio
David (Do Yorio) is a young bodybuilder. Still at high school, he spends most of his time in the gym sculpting his muscles. His mother (Colombo) is an artist who uses her son’s body for inspiration for her sculptures. Inspecting and measuring his muscles daily, she moves him onto a course of steroids provided by his trainer (Starosta) and becomes as obsessed as he is with creating the perfect version of her son. David must maintain a strict diet and absolute abstinence from alcohol and when his peers are all out partying, he finds it hard to continuously restrict himself, especially as he begins to become sexually aware.
There’s a lot going here. On the one hand you have mechanical masculinity, with a young man absolutely obsessed with transforming himself into a tank. On the other, his worship of muscles becomes a big fat question mark over whether he sees them with envy or lust. The old adage “you can’t bench-press a personality” is in full swing too, because David has absolutely no time to do anything but workout on a loop day in, day out. On the one occasion that he does let his hair down he simply can’t follow through because of the mental block wedged in his brain.
The relationship with his mother sits central to the story, with her unhealthy obsession with her son’s body casting an unsettling shadow that the director has reflected in both the film’s colour palate and its soundtrack. The cinematography is dark and atmospheric, with much of the film’s scenes taking place in darkened gyms or lightless rooms. It takes place in winter and the mood is dour as a result. A pensive, tense soundtrack underpins the narrative too, placing weight and significance on what David sees as well as does. The music is probably the film’s greatest asset, revealing so much more about this quiet character’s inner monologue than anything he does or says.
Despite the fact this film revolves around the male physique, this is not a showy or gratuitous film. If you’re coming at it expecting a gay Magic Mike, you’ll be greeted instead by a subtle and nuanced character piece. A film as much about the people surrounding a bodybuilder as the man himself – his mum and trainer’s passion for his body is the lynchpin of the plot, after all – the discussion of his sexuality is light too, with much of it hiding in the subtext as David reacts to banter with his friends. Like the perfection of Michelangelo’s David, this young man’s beauty has become a fixation for all those around him and the burden of this is far too high for any teenager to bear. The Perfect David adeptly captures this pressure-cooker, but manages perfectly to remain firmly on the right side of restraint.
UK Release: Out now to watch on VOD on Dekkoo, released by TLA Releasing