IFC Films, www.ifcfilms.com
Provocative, thought-provoking themes; beautiful cinematography; stellar performance by McGregor
Over-dramatised at times; narration was distracting
TBC - in cinemas later this year
Perfect Sense tells a heavy and complex tale of two strangers who fall in love as the world around them is plunged into chaos when an apocalyptic epidemic breaks out.
Set in Great Britain, Michael (Ewan McGregor) is a chef who works in a restaurant below an apartment where Susan – an epidemiologist – lives. Michael holds little regard for meaningful relationships, flitting from one liaison to the next; Susan is heavily broken from a succession of failed relationships in a desperate attempt to find ‘the one’. The pair could not be more different, and yet, a bond is formed almost immediately after meeting.
But with greater issues at hand, Michael and Susan find themselves engulfed in an end-of-world scenario when disease hits, rendering the human population helpless to sensory degeneration. First, the condition manifests in a loss of smell, then taste, hearing and – finally – sight. Humanity shifts and changes as people try to find a way to adjust to life and the perception that the senses – or lack thereof – affords them.
Michael and Susan take solace in the company of one another amidst the panic and this is how their story begins.
This is a hard-hitting plot with themes that you can’t help but ponder, long after the credits have stopped rolling; questions that force you to think about the state of the world, the nature and response mechanism of human behaviour and – of course – the essence of relationships and love. Needless to say, this is not your standard rom-com to watch when you want to zone out with a bit of lightweight entertainment.
The intensity of the story, the fact that it is set in such extreme conditions, is impact enough without the dense narration provided by Susan at incremental moments throughout the film; at times it feels as though director David Mackenzie wants to push too hard an agenda on questioning the meaning of life. That’s my biggest criticism of the film – because whatever meaning viewers takes from a cinematic experience, it should be organic and not forced or over-dramatised.
Still on track of pointing out what let the film down, I was not as drawn to Eva Green’s portrayal of Susan as I was to Ewan McGregor’s turn as Michael. McGregor was warm, engaging and a relatable character, whereas I was put off by Green’s constant brooding and stereotypical ‘British’ reserve. Susan was cold and, at times, robotic. I wanted to try to understand her, but could not. That being said, there was strong chemistry and believability between the two actors – they created a relationship that you wanted to prevail at all costs.
The cinematography in the film is exquisite; the nature of the story and the topic of human senses and subsequent focus on colour, sound and texture was a visual feast. As the story progresses, and the chaos mounts, the visual and audio experience heightens. I got swept up in the panic, realising I spent a lot of the film holding my breath.
Particularly haunting is the moment the world loses its hearing and noise ceases to exist. The scenes that were filmed in silence were mesmerising. As a viewer you, too, begin to adapt to communication and understanding without sound. Which, again, brings me to the point of superfluous narration that tried to explain what was already conveyed – and felt – in previous scenes.
What I appreciate about Perfect Sense is that it is a love story packaged in a completely different way. Its focus on artistry and raw human behaviour added weight to the story, offering more than just your typical ‘boy meets girl’ plot complete with a white wedding and nauseating, Steford outlook on the concept of ‘happily ever after’.
That’s not to say the film is all doom and gloom. Far from leaving you feeling depressed, Perfect Sense offers rare insight and appreciation for the gift of human senses and how the world might turn dark if we were to lose it all tomorrow.
Pefect Sense will be screened in cineams later this year.