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Simon Read [Film Festival 06.24.11] United Kingdom movie review apocalyptic

Year: 2011
Directors: David Mackenzie
Writers: Kim Fupz Aakeson
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: projectcyclops
Rating: 7 out of 10

Ewan McGregor and Eva Green star in David Mackenzie's apocalyptic romance as a couple who meet, quickly fall in love and then watch as the world begins to end. This film is possibly going to divide a lot of people; a friend I saw it with reacted very negatively towards it and was extremely disappointed, yet I found it to be generally an agreeable experience. I must say I wasn't a big fan of Young Adam, nor of Mackenzie's last film, the Edinburgh set Hallum Foe (released in the US as Mister Foe) so I can't say I had high expectations, or even any expectations at all as I hadn't even read about the film beyond it's basic premise. So, here goes, my review of Perfect Sense.

McGregor plays Michael, a chef in a Glasgow restaurant who takes his cigarette breaks outside the entrance to Susan's (Green) apartment block, and they share a smoke together one night after which he invites her inside for some food. A one night stand turns into something more regular and they begin a relationship, although both seem fairly weary about taking it too seriously. Meanwhile, reports are coming from all around the world that people are beginning to experience inexplicable moments of overwhelming grief, before suddenly losing their sense of smell. Nobody knows why.

Susan is a doctor at a city hospital and she and her colleagues begin to research a possible explanation, but the only certain conclusion they find is that it's not simply a virus. Society generally copes and we get various montages of how people change their daily habits which are kind of interesting and sort of bitter-sweet. They work, but flirt with pretension as Susan's voiceover muses on the nature of smell and memory as intrinsically connected. Michael and Susan keep seeing each other, both hoping that, "Maybe it'll just go away."

It doesn't go away and it's not long until there are reports of people losing their sense of taste too, which really doesn't bode well. "I think it's okay to panic now," says Susan's boss, as the general population do just that before police and army manage to restore order. Poor Michael's bistro starts to lose money big time so the chefs start to make food visually and texturally interesting. One food critic's new review talks of how wonderfully crunchy the food is, and just how inspired the colour scheme on his plate was. I liked that touch. We get more montages, again showing how the world changes now that we only have sight, touch and sound to get us through life.

You can guess the direction things go in from here, and needless to say the last act isn't exactly dialogue heavy. While the message of the film is pretty confused - the director has said it's up to the viewer to take it as they want to - I was happy just watching it play out and seeing how the characters react to the phenomenon. It's all kept fairly domestic - this isn't another Children Of Men - and we mostly see the gradual collapse from the two lead points of view, although as said above Mackenzie uses frequent montage sequences to show how the rest of the world is coping (the montages were a main gripe from my friend, as well as Green's admittedly tiresome voiceover which is quite overly precious and irritating) but I was impressed with the graceful direction and the performances from McGregor and Green which are perfectly suited to the tone of the film, ponderous, human and at turns over-the-top. Ewan Bremnar, McGregor's co-star in "Trainspotting" plays another chef at the restaurant and is kind of under-used but the supporting cast all acquit themselves well. Glasgow itself is kind of under-used also. If I were Glaswegian (which I thank Christ every day I am not) I'd be annoyed that the city is underrepresented by the locations, especially given that Mackenzie's last film was basically a big love letter to Edinburgh. (altogether understandable though that is)

I'm not sure what the film is really trying to say, it could be taken as a straight-up end of the world thriller, but it's too hypnotic and vague to be compared to any mainstream version of that genre. I took it to be about the inevitability of death (which is a mightily pretentious subject I'll admit) and the fact that we should enjoy life and indulge once in a while, or as Danny Rose would put it: "It's important to have some laughs, but you gotta suffer a little too, because otherwise you miss the whole point to life."

Let me know what you all think of Perfect Sense in the comments, I'd be interested to see if this one is going to polarize the audiences as much as it did my friend and I. I'll stress again though that I don't think the film is perfect, it does have gaps in logic, and the odd duff line, but I thought it was interesting, well crafted generally and I was with the characters all the way to the end... of the world. Sort of.

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agentorange (11 years ago) Reply

I think there's something fundamentally terrifying about losing any of your senses, let alone more than one.

Without seeing the film, I wonder if it's simply about how important it is that we physically connect. But like I said, I'd have to see it.

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