Jules is a wayward youth, sitting in a car, working up the nerve to enter into a music store they’ve had their eye on, to do something they’ve been planning for a long, long time.
After a kiss from their significant other, Hannah, they steels themselves up to go inside the shop. But once inside, Jules still can’t shake their nerves. In fact, Jules becomes even tenser under the sharp eye of the store proprietor — which makes what they’re about to do that much harder.
Writer-director Lydia Rui’s delicate jewel of a short drama renders a brief but pivotal moment in one young person’s life, with an exquisite sensitivity to unspoken emotional undercurrents of the action and an eye for the small but significant details that add up to meaning. Like a poem, the storytelling is pared down to the most essential dialogue and images. But this gritty yet elegant economy of detail allows for a precise focus that pays off with an immense and quietly moving resonance by the film’s end.
Visually, the film’s direction is restrained yet decidedly confident. The camera and visuals stick to a muted, handheld naturalism, and its cinematic grammar emphasizes close-ups and detail shots, a decision that holds throughout the film. In the beginning, this style adds a discomfiting edginess and tension, especially as the storytelling sets up a dramatic situation that seems equally tense and edgy. Through the skillful writing and equally skilled performance by lead actor Michelle Keating, the visual approach possesses a claustrophobic nervousness, especially as the editing skitters over Jules’s tense glances and unspoken tension.
But as the action unfolds, the writing unfurls a remarkable act of narrative sleight-of-hand that reframes our understanding of what’s happening into something much more subtle and heart-rending to watch. The handheld close-ups and attention to detail transform in emotional tenor, capturing an unspoken dialogue and set of expectations within Jules, and the visual language of film becomes less about tension and suspense and more like a gathering of detail and feeling, as if assembling an important memory as it is happening. And for Jules, what eventually happens will change their life, and perhaps even their most basic sense of self.
“This Perfect Day” is about a moment that changes everything: when life and self hang in the balance, and any aftereffects move slowly but deeply, like tectonic plates shifting the continents — though sometimes these movements bubble up with volcanic impact. Brave, intimate, vulnerable, it’s a film that possesses both the immediacy of present tense in its style and the deep pull of the past in its emotional depth: like writing a letter to one’s future self, trying to capture a fleeting moment or encounter with a fullness that can only be achieved through remembrance.