Perfect Sense Review

perfect sense movie

Another year, another apocalypse movie. In Perfect Sense, however, the end of the world comes with a delicious twist. It’s not another planet coming to destroy us (a la Melancholia), nor is it necessarily a Contagion-like epidemic. Rather, it’s the sudden and inexplicable loss of our senses. Director David Mackenzie utilizes an approach that just killed Another Earth, another similarly-themed film, by focusing on the personal baggage of a pair of flawed individuals. But Mackenzie smartly never loses focus of his film’s most interesting material, and as a result, it’s easy to forgive the film’s few flaws.

Michael (Ewan McGregor) and Susan (Eva Green) are our Glasgow-based vessels for the apocalypse. He’s a chef, she’s an epidemiologist. They meet just before a sudden and perplexing outbreak which causes a fit of sadness followed by an immediate and seemingly permanent loss of smell. Susan and her colleagues have no idea what the cause might be, nor do politicians or other scientists. Panic begins to set in, but after a few weeks, people are used to it. During this time, Michael and Susan become intimate and share everything with each other—until the world is thrown for a loop again when terror, fear, and hunger overcome the entire population and the sense of taste disappears for good.

Still unsure of the cause, people move on, though there are big changes to daily routines. Without smell and taste, texture becomes a selling point for Michael’s restaurant. And people cherish sounds and sights, unsure for how long they might still be able to. All the while, Michael and Susan go through an advanced course in couple’s therapy. Their problems are generally common, but the urgency is obviously and understandably heightened. They’re coping with issues of fertility, trust, and emotional availability, while also struggling with the problems their fellow humans have regarding the loss of their senses and the possibility that the world could be over. After all, without one’s senses, what can one even do?

The way the senses are lost gives the film a natural rhythm, an effective pace that keeps things moving while also allowing just enough time for some intellectually interesting comments on what life without taste and smell (for example) would be like. To compare the film again to Another Earth, that one examined the science-fiction aspects of its story in theory only. Perfect Sense moves along because of its premise. The love story is clearly secondary, and had it not been, I suspect the film would be much less successful.

McGregor and Green are solid, though there’s little about their characters to make them jump off the screen. They are regular people trying to find normalcy in a now extraordinary world. Their romance isn’t one of cinema’s all-time greats, but it’s good enough that the film doesn’t lose too much when the focus shifts back to them. I think the film’s biggest fault is its length—only 90 minutes. With a little more time, we could have had either more time to explore the increasingly senseless world or greater depth to these two characters and their relationship. Both would have done the film a great service, but ultimately, it still works quite well.

The film has a very indie feel with a voiceover straight out of Beginners (except this one comes from Eva Green, not Ewan McGregor) and some slightly grainy, but very solid camerawork. The film’s score is also impressive, though it becomes intrusive on a few occasions (especially the conclusion). And the writing, which manages to just avoid pretentiousness, is solid all the way through. Simply put, it’s a good movie with a great premise and it’s well-worth your 90 minutes.

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