Perfect Sense review

The end of the world is a subject that gets dealt with in film on a regular basis. Everything from natural disasters to plagues to zombies and everything in between have been seen as the cause, all in a fantastical and horrific fashion. So it’s both refreshing and intriguing to see a film that takes a far more subtle approach to the fall of mankind.

Perfect Sense is set in Glasgow, where Michael (McGregor) is head chef in a restaurant, but while professionally successful he is unfulfilled in his personal life. Susan (Green) is a successful scientist researching infectious diseases, but is also deeply unhappy on a personal level. As a condition begins to spread that is robbing people of their sense of smell, through a chance meeting they begin a relationship, but things are complicated further by the worsening of the condition threatening humanity, and the effect that has on the couple.

Perfect sense is a genuinely very impressive film. It’s understated and fully aware of the foibles of real people and the everyday challenges of modern life. The context of the disease that is destroying people’s senses is almost secondary, as the film deals with the way people adapt in adversity, and will almost always find a way to move on and to carry on. After people lose their sense of smell and taste things slowly return to normal, which is an incredibly inspiring message, and is very apt for the way human society operates.

The casting in Perfect Sense could not have been much better. Ewan McGregor, whom I often have difficulty watching due to his seeming inability to stop being himself and become the character he is playing, is excellent here. He seems very at ease in the role of Michael, as someone who desperately want to love and be loved, but has trouble in admitting this. Eva Green is equally excellent, as the emotionally damaged and constantly guarded Susan. The interaction and chemistry between the two is excellent, and really forms an excellent emotional core to the film.

Director Mackenzie takes a very measured approach throughout, and it’s very carefully weighed between the focus on society beginning to crumble and the relationship between the two leads. It’s almost unfathomable to think that this is the same director who also brought us the pitiful festival ‘comedy’ You Instead recently. The difference in quality is like night and day.

The only major criticism that can be levelled at Perfect Sense is that it’s slightly predictable. As soon as people begin to lose their sense of taste you can telegraph where the conclusion will end up, although this doesn’t make it any less horrific (if not surprisingly hopeful in the end). The narrator also feels slightly unnecessary for much of the film, providing unnecessary exposition when other less on the nose methods would have sufficed.

Overall, Perfect Sense is a very good film, well crafted and innovative in the way it tackles its subject matter, dealing with the end of the world scenario in a much more realistic and believable fashion than most films, and featuring an excellent performance by the two leads. Though this is unlikely to be an awards season contender, it might just sneak a nomination somewhere, and it would be thoroughly deserved if it does.

Official Site
Perfect Sense at IMDb

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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