The Perfect David (El Perfecto David) is a dark, brooding look at obsession, control, and the pressure to look perfect, but maybe not in the way you’d expect.
David (Mauricio Di Yorio) spends every spare moment working out. From the moment he rises to when he falls asleep. His obsession is taking a toll on his school work and his friendships, as he constantly sacrifices his time to work on his physique. The drive behind this is his controlling, exacting mother Juana (Umbra Colombo), who is determined to mould her son into a model of physical perfection. She is aided by a series of adults who view David as a project, a lifeless mannequin, rather than a person.
Argentinian filmmaker Felipe Gomez Aparicio presents us with a bleak, pulsing film, filled with shadows and a harsh electronic score. He shows us this world as a voyeur watching from afar, teasing the audience with hints and bold images. But this is no eye candy movie; it presents a cold, harsh reality. Aparicio refuses to be drawn into side conversations about the effects of advertising or social media, or ethical discussions about steroid use or the commodification of bodies. These elements are all present as part of the fabric of the film, not its focus. Much like the characters, the film has one goal in mind.
David’s facial expressions remain placid, as if he is hiding behind his skin, and he only comes alive when admiring older professional weightlifters or, in a drunk moment, showing off his own body to his admiring schoolmates. David’s sexuality is a mystery, as much to us as to him. As he watches straight porn, he is staring at the muscle-bound man, but is it in lust or in professional appreciation? With each improvement to his own body, his life falters and his internalized rage builds. Does he genuinely want this for himself?
Without being offered an insight into his interior life, or given any backstory about his own motivations, it’s hard to find a way into The Perfect David. I sympathized with the character, but given the unreality of his situation—his mother’s drive is bizarre and strains credulity, while other adults enabling her is even more baffling—it’s hard to take it too seriously for all its dour outlooks. David’s mental descent is difficult to connect with, hidden by a taciturn performance. We are always on the outside looking in.
Stark and disturbing, The Perfect David refuses to let you go or offer a reprieve from its claustrophobic mood. Beautifully made and slick, the film is much like its main character, an alluring enigma to the end.
By Chad Armstrong
The Perfect David plays at QueerScreen’s Mardi Gras Film Festival 2022 in Sydney, Australia on February 23rd. Click here for times and tickets.