Movie Review: Perfect Sense
A half hour into Perfect Sense, I didn’t want to like the movie. Its love story and visual style were at times so over-the-top, so clearly vying for indie credentials and heart strings, that I couldn’t take it. But I’ll be damned if I wasn’t rooting for the star-crossed lovers by the end.
While director David Mackenzie‘s science fiction-ish touches and melodramatic emphasis don’t hold up to scrutiny, his central story is plenty to grab you and make you hope it will all work out.
Perfect Sense follows Michael (Ewan McGregor) and Susan (Eva Green), a chef and an epidemiologist, who meet and fall in love just as a virus is breaking out that slowly robs everyone on the planet of the five senses. After each sense fails, humanity adapts and life returns to normal for a while, but this perseverance gets more difficult at each step.
Mackenzie and screenwriter Kim Fup Aakeson could afford to brush up on the Golden Rule of sci-fi: Set your ground rules early, and stick to them. The mysterious disease that spreads throughout the film is never identified or defined. It varies notably at each appearance. Sometimes it takes days to spread, looking roughly like an airborne pathogen; sometimes every human being on earth loses a sense at the same moment (!).
Worst of all, this disease is accompanied by an emotional aspect that strikes every time, just before a sense is lost.
“How convenient,” I thought, “a virus that makes people overact.” It was just too perfect that the subjects of this film should be stricken with an otherworldly bug that thrusts them into Oscar-baiting fits of grief, fear, anger, hunger, and yes, finally, overwhelming joy. I think this was a metaphor for human nature driving us to extremes and slowly blocking out the world, but the idea lost a lot in translation.
Join this with emotionally manipulative voice over, montages of international strife and beauty, and ever present pulsating violin music, and it’s just too much.
But get past all that; get to the story of two lovers who realize that life always goes on; combine that with a virus scare and societal upheaval that seem all too familiar; and there is definitely something there. Mackenzie presents Michael’s restaurant as a brilliant little microcosm of society, where people try to enjoy life for more than just survival. And every time the human race is stripped of a sense, the kitchen’s team sets about reinventing food to play to whatever we have left. It was this realistic tenacity, and the subtle race-against-time pressure applied by the disease, that had me cheering for Michael and Susan to be together before their world went dark.
Have you seen the movie? What do you think?
Perfect Sense was a hit at several international festivals last year; it is currently playing in limited release in the US.