Review for Perfect Sense
Wedge and Obi-wan, Spud and Renton, two coincidences that briefly sparked my interest when I heard of Perfect Sense a while ago. That Trainspotting co-stars Ewan McGregor and Ewen Bremner were in a new film together was a little interesting, but you can guess which way this geek reviewer's brain is wired when I admit to being more excited at the thought of uncle and nephew, Denis Lawson and Ewan McGregor acting on screen together for the first time. Star Wars geekgasm concluded, I promptly forgot all about the film until the review disc showed up unsolicited in my in-tray. It turns out that Perfect Sense is a sci-fi film of sorts, although not that kind of sci-fi.
The world as we know it is coming to an end. A pandemic is sweeping the world, a mysterious disease that is robbing the human race of its senses one by one. Each loss is preceded by a powerful, irrepressible explosion of emotion. As mankind is stripped of its ability to interact with the world, two people, Susan and Michael, an epidemiologist and a chef, come together and fall in love.
Arrow Films presents this movie in its original 2.35:1 anamorphic ratio on this disc. There's nothing to complain about with the transfer, the image comes across clearly enough, while the DD 5.1 audio does a good job of showcasing the sound design when the film needs it to. I did feel that at times the dialogue was a little low in the mix, while the score could get melodramatic and overwhelm it. There are English subtitles if you need them, as well as an Audio Descriptive track in DD 2.0 form.
The film autoplays with a trailer for another Eva Green film forthcoming, Womb, while the animated menus offer you a brief 3-minute interview with Ewan McGregor at the Edinburgh International Film Festival, and a 17-minute Making Perfect Sense featurette that offers interviews with actors Denis Lawson, Ewen Bremner and Alastair McKenzie.
Perfect Sense is an interesting sci-fi film in the classic mode of sci-fi, where it takes a concept, an idea and examines its effects on society. In an age where sci-fi usually means big effects and space battles, it's a refreshing and smart way of doing things. In this case it's an examination of how people will react if their means of interacting with the world, their senses are torn away from them. It's a textbook application of the cliché, "you don't know what you have until it's gone", and it results in a film that is thought-provoking, intelligent, and by turns depressing and uplifting.
The sci-fi conceit here is that of a disease, undetectable and incomprehensible, which takes away people's senses one by one, preceded by an uncontrollable outburst of emotion. It has a 100% infection rate, no one is immune, and the effects are immediate and irreversible. It's less like a disease and it's more like someone just flicking the off switches on humanity one by one. With the main protagonists of the film Susan and Michael, we get a first hand insight into the disease from the point of view of one of the epidemiologists researching it, and the effects of the disease by someone whose livelihood will immediately be affected by it, head chef Michael. As it's the senses of smell, and then taste which are first lost, the impact is immediately felt in the restaurant where he works.
It's compelling to see how people react to the gradual loss of their senses, they way that they deal with the disablement, compensate for it, replace it. Smell goes first, and that's not such an immediate loss, although for many it does mean losing touch with their most primal memories. Cooks compensate by making their food spicier, artists try to evoke the memory of scent through other means, but it isn't crippling. With the loss of taste, it seems the restaurant industry is doomed, until people compensate by replacing taste with texture, savouring the feeling of eating, taking greater comfort in sharing the experience. It's when hearing starts being affected that panic sets in, but again people are shown able to adapt and deal.
Intellectually the film is very appealing, the way that it is shot emphasises the senses, makes us vicariously appreciate smell and taste, and of course immediately be aware of sound and sight. You come away from the film much more thoughtful about the world and how you interact with it, as well as the relationships you have with the people that are close to you.
It's just that on an emotional level I couldn't connect with the film, couldn't connect with the central relationship between Michael and Susan. Their passion certainly is felt on screen, and you can see that it's as much a desire to connect, as it is a means to flee the chaos that is engulfing the world, and threatening to overwhelm them as well. Both have damaged pasts, aspects of their personalities that have limited them in the relationships that they have had before, and this relationship seems as defiance in the face of that, but none of it felt real to me. Perhaps it's the stylised nature of the film, but their relationship never felt spontaneous or believable. In a film that is as much romance as it is sci-fi, that is a significant drawback, and as such, it became an interesting thought experiment, rather than an emotionally resonant piece of cinema. Perfect Sense is well worth a watch, as long as you still have your sight...