MFR Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★
A gorgeously depressing, fantasy romance: Perfect Sense is a movie to be adored or despised. Pretentious? I prefer to say ambitious. Somehow it works and feels utterly convincing and stays with you long after the lights go up. Even the sound of the main road on the walk home is appreciated. The site of the Lenton Industrial Park that surrounds the local multiplex becomes a thing of beauty. The smell of the polluted highway has never smelled so…polluted.
The premise is undoubtedly odd and you’ll either buy it completely or consider it pretentious twaddle. Ewan McGregor plays a chef, Michael, whose taste and smell guide his profession. Michael works near Susan (Eva Green), a scientist. Their falling into love feels romantic and their relationship is completely convincing, a huge relief given McGregor’s limp performance in the recently underwhelming Beginners. Now here’s when things start getting a little odd. While Michael and Susan are falling in love a mysterious global pandemic takes over to rob people of their senses, slowly, agonizingly, one at a time.
What’s causing this pandemic is unknown. The film cuts with slightly pretentious sections asking what it means to be human, spliced with old footage of the world, coping and struggling. At one point the voice-over asks the cause of the strange apocalypse. A virus of some sort? A message from God? Aliens? Really, if you buy the central relationship these questions are never concerning. Some sort of force is eradicating the greatest pleasures we take for granted and no one can stop it. One at a time the world loses its senses. First smell. How do we adapt? Can we move on? How much can we lose until life becomes unbearable?
It’s an absolutely beautiful concept: the blossoming of a romance in the backdrop of an unthinkably awful apocalypse of the senses. The sense of utter despondency was reminiscent of the earth shatteringly miserable Never Let Me Go, possibly my film of 2011 so far. Like Never Let Me Go, it’s a film about coping amidst horror. Despite all the agony that’s occurring across the world, the film is always grounded in Michael and Susan and their time together. As the senses slip away, their romance remains everlasting. It sounds so corny but it really is done so delicately and with genuine emotion. It’s staggering this film is also from David MacKenkie, who a few weeks previously released the dull and vacant You Instead. Perfect Sense is anything but.
Film should always make you feel something and Perfect Sense is like a perfect recipe of empathy. You can feel the loss of the senses and the connection the characters hold. It’s a film that hangs with you, both in terms of your appreciation of your own senses but also rather hauntingly. The ending is stunning. Just imagining the horror of what the characters have lost and what they are still to lose is utterly, utterly unthinkable, even if that’s not the note the film ends on. A strange film, a haunting film, but a really beautiful, brave and emotive story. Sensual.
Perfect Sense is out on 7th October in the UK. Running time: 92 mins. Certificate 15 (UK).
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Review by David Rank