Directed by: David Mackenzie.
Written by: Kim Fupz Aakeson.
Starring: Eva Green (Susan), Ewan McGregor (Michael), Ewen Bremner (James), Connie Nielsen (Jenny), Stephen Dillane (Samuel).
What would happen to the world if everyone starts to lose their senses, one at a time? That’s the premise of Perfect Sense, an interesting, but not completely satisfying movie starring Ewan McGregor as a chef and Eva Green as an “epidemiologist” who meet cute over a cigarette (how old fashioned is that?) They meet, they fall into bed together, and think that’s going to be all there is to their relationship. But as the world falls deeper into chaos, they find themselves drawn together again and again – and these two people who have essentially kept to themselves for their whole lives, finally open up and have a real relationship. I just didn’t quite buy it – the relationship felt overly forced and sentimental, and goes against what we learn about the characters throughout, and the epidemic is just too ridiculous to be believed.
In Perfect Sense, everyone in the world loses their senses one at a time. The first to go is smell and the just before the world loses their sense of smell, they go through an overwhelming sense of grief and loss – smell is linked strongly to memory and the world mourns the loss of those memories. Then taste goes, and right before it does, the world becomes ravenous, eating anything and everything they can get their hands on at that moment. Over the course of the movie, people will lose the ability to hear, and finally the ability to see. The movie doesn’t go all out and have everyone lose their sense of touch – because that would plunge the movie into a despair that would work against in inherent sentimentality.
The two characters the movie centers on are Michael (Ewan McGregor), a self centered chef, and Susan (Eva Green), an icy cold epidemiologist. They meet cute, fall into bed together quickly, and then Michael throws her out after they’re done – saying he cannot sleep with someone else in bed with him. She’s furious with him – at first – but the two come together again and again during the course of the movie – gradually falling in love. These two self-involved assholes let their guard down as they lose their senses, and gradually learn to connect to each other – right up until the end of the movie, when they really do feel something towards each other.
The movie brings to mind other recent epidemic movies. Steven Soderbergh's Contagion went ultra-realistic with the premise, and delivered one of his best movies. Perfect Sense has more in common with Children of Men, in which humanity becomes infertile, and Blindness, where the world loses their sense of sight, and falls into a dehumanizing mob where might makes right. Like those two movies, there is no attempt to explain why the epidemic spreads or how – even though one of the characters is an epidemiologist, she is apparently not a very good one. But Perfect Sense is much more hopeful than either of those films. In Blindness, the world loses just one of its senses, and it takes almost no time for them to become primal animals. Perfect Sense is about humanities adaptability – how eventually, humans find a way to return to normal. I didn’t really buy that premise – especially when the symptoms continue to mount. The movie also pulls its punches a little, eliminating the sense that we could do without, and then ending the movie when the essential senses start to go.
There are some nice touches throughout the movie however. Director David Mackenzie, who previously made the vastly superior Young Adam with McGregor, has a nice visual style for the movie, but never crosses the line and goes overboard with it. The scene with the world eating everything in sight is a particular triumph. And while I never really bought them as a couple, McGregor and to a lesser extent Green, are effective playing self-involved assholes. The movie held my interest throughout – it’s just that I was expecting more from the film, that it was building towards something bigger, and the movie never got there.