Perfect Sense received a rather limited theatrical release back in October 2011 and, although the critics liked it, I suspect it didn’t shake the box office too much. And that’s a shame really as the film is an interesting and original piece of romantic sci-fi, which I guess could be placed on the same shelf as The Time Traveller’s Wife (2009) or Somewhere in Time (1980), which have a similar vibe, if that makes sense.
A new virus is spreading throughout the globe, slowly stripping people of their five senses, one at a time. Preceded by feelings of grief, the first sense to go is the sense of smell, which obviously has connotations to people like Michael (played by Ewan McGregor), a chef in a swanky Glasgow restaurant. Yes, even Glasgow has posh eating places, believe it or not. No deep-fried mars bars here!
Witnessing these events, along with Michael, are his restaurant colleagues, played by Lawson and Bremner and also Susan (Eva Green), an aloof epidemiologist who is conducting research into the outbreak. Michael and Susan embark on an arms length sort of relationship, which grows ever more complicated as the film progresses.
Written by award-winning Danish writer Kim Fupz Anderson, Perfect Sense is a thought provoking, but rather depressing film about how humans are affected by losing their senses and how society copes with an ever-changing world order. I think the film is strongest when it confronts how the loss of the various senses affects people’s everyday lives, most tellingly early on with the loss of both smell and taste. By the time people are losing their hearing it all starts to get a bit like a low budget disaster movie, but before then the script has some intriguing and sometimes uplifting things to say about humanity.
A BBC Films, Scottish Screen and Irish Film Board co-production, Perfect Sense is the kind of worthy ‘what if’ drama the British Film Council, that was, loved and that we, to be fair, are pretty good at making. I can see why the two main stars were attracted to the script, since it provides both with some meaty character driven scenes and they even get to roll around naked together a few times. Not that I’m complaining; Eva is definitely candy for the eyes and I know Ewan has his fair share of flesh seeking fans too!
Although I didn’t particularly buy the virus theory or, for that matter, much of the science being bandied about (it might be because I used to be a scientist myself), I did find the whole scenario of how people were first knocked for six by their new disabilities and then, after a few weeks, the world pulls itself together and carries on, really fascinating. Seeing how society evolves in order to compensate for such massive changes within the human population was pretty well done. Probably most memorable is how the restaurant copes with first having customers who can’t smell their food and then when they can no longer taste it! To start with the food has to become saltier, spicier, sweeter and then, when taste has gone, it’s the texture of the food that becomes increasingly important.
Although this film has been marketed more as an apocalyptic sci-fi fable I’d agree with the makers that it’s more of a romance. Thankfully the makers have avoided most romance-led clichés, but the ending was a mite bit predictable, although I myself was willing it to happen!
In general, as you’d expect from the featured cast, the performances are good, although I didn’t wholly buy into the central relationship; maybe I just didn’t get a sense of any real chemistry between the leads, but you can’t have everything!
Probably my favourite scene in the movie was when the two central characters are driving through the riot-ravaged streets and suddenly pull up, wind down their windows and just listen to the sounds of chaos and misery around them. It’s a powerful and terrifying scene anyway, but is given even more clout by the fact that you know, as the characters realise themselves, that soon they probably won’t be able to hear anything, regardless of whether the sounds are nice or not.
The film is very well shot, with only a couple of annoying wobbly camera shots and I particularly liked the shot of Michael riding his bike when our point of view is from his handlebars. I quickly forgave those wobbles! Shot primarily in Glasgow, with a few scenes shot in India and Mexico, the makers have made good use of their locations and, considering this was a quick shoot, I think they pulled off some of the more ambitious and complicated scenes very well. I could have done without the skinned dogs though!
The score is suitably melancholic and sounds mainly confined to a violin accompanied by a piano. My only real sound gripe was that I found some of the voiceover dialogue difficult to discern as the music was a bit too loud at times and tended to swell dramatically just as the narrator was about to say something interesting or profound!
All in all Perfect Sense is a brave film that asks some interesting, and frightening, questions about what it is to be human and alive, and seems to say that when the shit hits the fan love really can conquer all, which isn’t a bad thing, me thinks. It’s just a shame the film couldn’t convey that message in a slightly more uplifting way!
Reviewer: Justin Richards
Arrow Films have just released Perfect Sense on DVD, so keep a look out for it on the shelves of your local HMV, supermarket or online. There were a couple of extras on the disc I was sent including a brief interview with Ewan McGregor, at the film’s premiere as part of the Edinburgh Film Festival, which is ok, although it’s cut off too soon by his PR woman (bloody PR people!) and a fairly interesting making of doc called Making Perfect Sense. This features brief interviews with many of the cast, who all praise the writer and director, blah, blah, but who are also quite endearing when they speak about some of the more sticky aspects of the shoot! It’s just a shame that neither Ewan nor Eva made this documentary or, in fact, more of the actual crew.
I would hope that the director has done a commentary and a trailer would be included on the final DVD version.