Perfect Sense, 2011.
Directed by David Mackenzie.
Starring Ewan McGregor, Eva Green, Connie Nielsen, Stephen Dillane and Ewen Bremner.
A chef and a scientist fall in love as an epidemic sweeps the globe.
The first thing to go is our sense of smell. Then we start to cry uncontrollably. Then an insatiable hunger as our sense of taste disappears.
In Perfect Sense, the question of ‘what makes us human’ is asked as a mysterious virus begins to infect the world and take away our senses, with no one safe. Are we defined by what we hear, see, smell, taste, and touch? Could we love and connect with those around us if we lost these senses? In the film, we focus on the start of a relationship between a chef (Ewan McGregor) and a scientist (Eva Green) who are just two typical people living in Glasgow who get struck by the virus and the results are very melancholic, sad, thoughtful, and, for the most part, the film works due to its originality and realistic portrayal of human nature.
The virus is never explained, but is a mere MacGuffin for director David Mackenzie to ask us - would you embrace the senses you had left, or would you turn to anarchy? What kind of human are you and what do you think of fellow man? McGregor and Green have more ups and downs in this film than most married couples have in 50 years, but the extreme emotions they are feeling are very well played out and this is McGregor on rare form as he conveys an ‘average guy’ expertly well and we feel genuine sympathy for him as their happiness is put in jeopardy.
The script is full of realistic dialogue in the way two damaged people might actually talk; most notable was the scene where Green asks him to tell her ‘something to make her feel special’. He tells her that he left his fiancé when she became critically ill and does so without any remorse and in return she tells him he is an asshole and he agrees, not putting up any protests. I found this to be refreshingly honest and open, as here are two characters showing real life characteristics, not false creations.
Mackenzie has filled his film with interesting images and as each sense goes, we get a real understanding of how this might affect the key characters and the panic builds at an organic pace, never rushed. The final scene, when the two lovers are moments away from blindness, is as touching as anything I saw last year and a perfect way to end the film both visually and thematically.
The film undoubtedly works most credibly when the attention is on McGregor and Green, and less so when the action spreads to the rest of the world, with some montages of still image, and actual footage of humanity at its most destructive (war, fighting, looting). I found some of this to be borderline preachy, as I don’t want messages that humanity can be harmful to its own survival rammed down my throat from what is otherwise a very intelligent and thought-provoking film.
Rohan Morbey - follow me on Twitter.