REVIEW: ‘Perfect Life’ Nearly Is

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Perfect Life - But Why Tho?Perfect Life (Vida Perfecta) is a Spanish-language HBO Max Original by Leticia Dolera originally aired on Movistar+. As one of several foreign language series recently, the show is available in the original Spanish or with an English dub. The series follows María (Leticia Dolera), her sister Esther (Aixa Villagrán), and María’s best friend Cristina (Celia Freijeiro) as they navigate love and careers in their 30s.

María’s fiancé sucks, and just as they’re about to sign a mortgage together, he blows up on her and leaves. Her sister Esther, an artist with no self-esteem, convinces her to take drugs before going to María’s best friend Cristina’s daughter’s birthday party. Cristina is married to a husband who gives her little and is obsessed with having a third kid that she doesn’t want. At the party, a high María has sex with a gardener, Gari (Enric Auquer), and gets pregnant. She later finds out that Gari has an intellectual disability.

Perfect Life is an excellent representation of folks with disabilities. The show does the best job of simply letting Gari and the other neurodivergent people in his life be full human beings of any show I have seen. Every episode makes abundantly clear repeatedly that Gari’s disability does not make him any less than. In fact, he’ll likely be a better father than any one of the other men in the show would be. When people refer to him offensively, María corrects them in a way that isn’t meant to be a joke. When she patronizes him, Gari, or others like Xosé (Manuel Burque), are quick to clarify that Gari is entirely capable of making his own choices, expressing his own needs, and living his own life.

The only problem with the character of Gari is that he isn’t played by an actor with the same disabilities. Having this excellent character played by an abled actor is fairly uncomfortable and a disservice to the character. An actor with an intellectual disability could have, and should have, played Gari, and casting the character otherwise is a serious disservice to one of the show’s biggest themes: that Gari is capable of anything he wants to be. Further, there is this weird thing Gari talks about where he quantifies what percentage he or others are disabled. While it may be a normal thing to discuss in Spain perhaps, it rubbed me the wrong way a few times.

Outside of the great relationship between Gari and María and the way it illustrates how love and relationships don’t need to fit into a prescribed mold, Esther and Cristina’s character arcs are great too. Cristina’s troubles with her husband ultimately don’t go the way I expected them to and really helped further the show’s traditional relationship-subversion. Esther has a few painfully cliché moments with her parents, girlfriends, and María revolving around poor communication and angst. But ultimately the deep anger and self-resentment she feels is powerful and her relationship with María and her growth over the season is endearing.

The sex scenes are very explicit in Perfect Life and occasionally feel gratuitous, but ultimately, every relationship, of which there are many, feels really valuable to the series and the three women’s paths to learning what love can really be. Even the men whom I initially hated I came to respect for the way they eventually shed their jealousy and other toxic-masculine traits in order to put the women they cared about first. While I wished all along this could just have been how these men were from the start, at least Gari and Xosé were really, really good guys from start to finish. And I suppose there wouldn’t be much of a show if the jerk men weren’t jerks, so I’m just happy that they ended on good notes and totally subverted my expectations of them.

Perfect Life also makes excellent use of music. The English subtitles, however, are rubbish. They seem to have been written for a British audience and totally lack any character. It’s a very flat translation of the original Spanish. The dub, however, is quite good. There are moments here and there, especially early on, where it sounds a bit phoned in. Ultimately, the voiceover cast does a good job portraying the scenes’ emotions, while the English script puts many colloquialisms into American English. It makes the script feel totally natural throughout most of the show.

Perfect Life is an excellent show. Its portrayal of adults with intellectual disabilities is excellent, save for the fact that a non-disabled actor plays the principal disabled character. Nonetheless, the series offers a touching story filled with all types of love about learning what’s important to yourself, even as you fear aging.

Perfect Life is streaming now on HBO Max.

Perfect Life
  • 9/10
    Rating - 9/10
9/10

TL;DR

Perfect Life is a very good show. Its portrayal of adults with intellectual disabilities is excellent, save for the fact that a non-disabled actor plays the principal disabled character. Nonetheless, the series offers a touching story filled with all types of love about learning what’s important to yourself, even as you fear aging.