Director David Mackenzie’s latest film is a near-perfect look at a world run amok. It’s two parts Contagion and three parts Melancholia, with a dash of Before Sunrise thrown in for good measure.
Ewan McGregor and the lovely Eva Green play an unlikely couple of romantics with commitment issues. Susan lives in a flat above the restaurant where Michael serves as chef. They come together one day in the back alley over their shared love of cigarettes. There’s an instantaneous attraction, and it doesn’t take long for the two to shed their clothes and spend long hours in the bedroom.
As Perfect Sense heads down the typical path of other cinematic romances, Susan and Michael’s world is completely hijacked. A mysterious illness causes people to suffer intense episodes of energy and then lose one of their senses. Susan, a scientist at the local research facility, begins studying the contagious outbreak and hopes it remains isolated.
Her hopes are dashed when the epidemic begins spreading rapidly.
First, everyone experiences an emotional breakdown and then loses their sense of smell. This causes problems at Michael’s restaurant, where his menu is largely built around aromas.
Then everyone suffers from a crazed need to eat food; it only last a few seconds, but it’s violent. Michael squirts hot sauce into his mouth. Susan chomps on some flowers. After the episodes, everyone loses their sense of taste.
Perfect Sense continues picking off the senses one by one, and the world needs to learn to live with its new limitations. It’s interesting to see how Michael changes his dishes at the restaurant, depending on what people can feel. When their taste and smell are gone, he heightens the sound of the food and its texture. Of course, they eventually go deaf, and he’s thrown another curveball.
The movie is obviously allegorical and not meant to be a true sci-fi flick (Mackenzie should check out Adam Bock’s play, A Small Fire, which dealt with similar themes). More than being scientific, the film takes a 360-degree look at a relationship under duress. How does one connect with a partner when there are so many limitations? Can a relationship continue when the power of sight is lost forever? Can a relationship continue when there’s nothing left but touch?
McGregor and Green are likable, and they have a nice chemistry. They never fall in love, although they have an evident lust for each other. They seem to connect because of serendipity; they are stuck in the same place at the same time the world is ending. Why not give it a go?
Mackenzie, working off a script by Kim Fupz Aakeson, is daring and original. The movie is many things, but it’s not orindary. Best yet, the plot never overtakes the characters of Michael and Susan. Although the crazy contagion is the central conceit of the 92-minute drama, it always hovers above everything else. Amidst the apocalypse, we get to watch a couple struggle with a connection that goes far beyond their collective senses. In other words, we get to watch something that really matters while the world tries to take it away.
By John Soltes / Publisher / John@HollywoodSoapbox.com
Directed by David Mackenzie
Written by Kim Fupz Aakeson
Starring Ewan McGregor and Eva Green
Running time: 92 minutes