Perfect Sense [Mackenzie, 2011]
David Mackenzie, directing from a Kim Fupz Aakeson script, offers an intriguing, if not perfect, take on the apocalyptic movie, of which we have seen increasing numbers (Children of Men, 28 Weeks Later, Melancholia, Contagion et al.).
In Perfect Sense, Ewan McGregor plays Michael, a slick Glaswegian sous-chef who we first see, post-coitus, politely asking a woman to leave as he’s “unable to sleep while anyone else is in the bed”. However, he soon meets Eva Green’s Susan, an emotionally damaged epidemiologist, and changes his womanizing-ways. As romance (or adaptability?) blossoms, a mysterious virus that destroys the senses begins to sweep the globe. First, smell. And then, taste. Each one accompanied by a shocking side-dish of side-effects including uncontrollable sadness and ravishing hunger.
Initially, instead of the all out panic that ensues in the likes of 28 Days Later and Children of Men, people simply adapt. As the foreboding, yet occasionally clunky, narration (Green, herself) tells us “life goes on”. And so it does, beautifully. Mackenzie and director of photography Giles Nuttgens do a spine-tingling job of heightening audience senses as the characters slowly lose theirs with their hand-held camera and majestic lighting. In this way, the film calls to mind Lars von Trier’s equally visually vibrant Melancholia.
Visuals aside, the film at time lacks direction. Although the premise is thought-provoking and a new twist on the genre, Perfect Sense is never quite bold enough to explore the big questions it threatens to ask. At the same time, the love story at the centre of it all is a little nonsensical and on occasion, just plain unconvincing. McGregor and Green never quite seem to spark in a way as to engross you within their plight. And considering the film is largely based around a series of moments and connections between these two leads, on the whole, you’re left with the feeling that proceedings are all just a bit too superficial.
That said, as the senses continue to evaporate, emotions become sharper, culminating in a uniquely engaging final 10 minutes that are as good as anything the film has to offer – including a fleetingly poignant post-deafness moment, in which Michael returns to the alleyway outside Susan’s apartment building , standing in the spot where he used to whistle to get her attention – a subtle and sensory moment of connection, now gone in the blink of an eye.
So as the world ends with a hug described in darkness, Mackenzie’s gorgeously shot film makes perfect stylistic sense, it’s just a shame that the story at the centre of it is not quite so finely-tuned.
3 out of 5 – Worth a watch.