The idea that an epidemic might swarm through the world, cutting off people’s sensory perceptions, could explore a lot of potential angles. How will people react? Will they get used to the changes? Will there be exceptions to the disease? We’ve seen big-budget movies try to present the panic and bewildering emotions related to broad-spectrum disease, but director David Mackenzie takes a different route in Perfect Sense, a story about disease, but more about two young lovers navigating a new world.
There is a lot of rushing in the first few minutes of Perfect Sense. People are living frenzied lives. Michael (Ewan McGregor), for instance, runs a busy kitchen and Susan (Eva Green) works in a laboratory focusing on epidemiology. I’d guess that latter job might generally be less stressful, but with an impending virus cutting off people’s ability to smell around the world, things in the lab are moving forward with a bit more fervor. Just when the smell epidemic reaches the area, Susan and Michael have a meet-cute moment. They end up extremely nude, later, and when they wake up together, they find their olfactory senses are entirely gone.
What follows is not the continued panic one might expect to see. There is a lot of sobering talk, even amidst some laughter, a lot of shots meant to belie introspection, handed to us by an incredibly annoying but necessary narrative device. What Mackenzie seems to be trying to show is that humanity will be able to move beyond an epidemic, even if that epidemic affects each and every one of us, and assuming that epidemic does not kill us off. Even with a loss of smell, life will move on.
While the aftermath of Perfect Sense is quite heartfelt, its actual plotline is unbelievable, a story that becomes even more preposterous when humanity begins to lose its other senses as well. During this time, we are bamboozled by the camera and never given even half a chance to see the world over during this time of trepidation and disease. Instead, we are asked to focus on Michael and Susan as they begin to explore their love for one another in “new” and “interesting” ways as the disease robs them of their senses one by one.
The notion of two people clinging through hardship together is a theme we’ve seen before, but in Perfect Sense it is overly sentimental, driven by Susan’s narration of the event and its maudlin declaration that love must triumph, even in times of turmoil. Without love, there is nothing. Perfect Sense spends a lot of time making this declaration clear, but without it, we might have been privy to more shots of the devastating effects of the disease and fewer shots of Eva Green’s wasted nudity throughout.
Perfect Sense began with the bud of an idea, but then took a wrong turn somewhere between loss of taste and loss of sight. If you’re into dwelling in harrowing emotional states, this movie might strike in your lane, but for everyone else, Perfect Sense, despite its intense focus on the serious, will be a laughably flawed production.
The extras section is pretty Spartan, with the main feature taking a short look at the film by juxtaposing some of the trailer with interviews from Green and Mackenzie. I was really hoping we’d get a chance to hear more from the cast and crew about the making of the film, or maybe even from Max Richter, the Blue Notebooks composer whose music is one of the better parts of Perfect Sense.
The disc is set up pretty well and the previews at the beginning can be skipped, which is a nice bonus. One of the strangest things with the set is the scene selection, which is set up vertically rather than in the usual horizontal frame. Overall, even if you liked the film, I’m not certain the set is a necessary buy, but with no noticeable film-color or film-technique problems, there may be enough there to add the flick to your collection, especially if you are a sucker for romance (or nudity).