Article by: Kendra Perry
Film: Perfect Sense (2011)
Starring: Ewan McGregor, Eva Green
Directed: David Mackenzie
Unlike what it appears from its packaging, David Mackenzie’s Perfect Sense (2011) is more than just a romance. Tragedy and passion is tightly interwoven in this romantic tale of woe, leaving you with a bittersweet taste in your mouth and an appreciation for your senses. Unlike most end-of-the-world tales, this one is beautifully and artfully done. Susan (Green) is an epidemiologist who is doing her best to recover from a recent breakup. She is called to study a strange case: a truck driver, after crying uncontrollably for no apparent reason, loses his sense of smell.
Later at a chance encounter, Michael (McGregor), a chef that owns the restaurant below Susan’s apartment, meets the troubled scientist and begins to pursue her. At first, Susan wants nothing to do with Michael, but as the film progresses they find solace in each other as an untraceable epidemic rampages across the world. One by one each of the senses are taken, starting with the sense of smell, then taste, hearing, and finally sight. And although the epidemic is tearing the world apart, it is also brings Michael and Susan’s world together. It pushes them out of their comfort zone, brings to light their flawed characteristics and reconnects them on a different level of intimacy.
The film was nicely balanced between love and chaos, giving the audience a quick breath before sliding back into the tension. There are plenty of disturbing images and moments; for example, the uncontrolled gluttonous eating that preceded the loss of the sense of taste and the violence that preceded the loss of the sense of hearing. Nevertheless, it is these images that do the film justice. Green’s voice is heard narrating over some of the clips explaining human behavior and how it relates to the senses. It is also interesting to see how the world adjusts to each sense they lose. People continue to live as though they had not lost any of their senses. Michael, whose culinary future looks grim with the loss of the sense of smell and taste, continues to serve food that is aesthetically pleasing.
The performances of Eva Green and Ewan McGregor are superb as they bring their characters to life. The casting perfectly embodies Green as the heartbroken deeply scarred protagonist and McGregor as the charming and lovable character that he portrays in many notable films. Their romantic encounter is warm and believable—a breath of fresh air from the cookie cutter characters in the romance genre.
The film’s minor hiccup is that it never incorporates the loss of touch. I anticipated it to happen, but was met with disappointment when it did not. Arguably, the sense of touch could be the perfect sense, hence the movie’s title. As Susan and Michael find each other in the end, their only solace is in their embrace. This is perhaps the hope of the movie in that the world does not end, but that it now it has to be experienced differently. We are left with the question of whether the sense of touch will leave as well.
Long after the screen fades to black and the credits roll, Perfect Sense will linger in your mind, probing you to wonder could this really happen, and further, how we take our senses for granted. For me, T.S. Eliot’s famous words came to mind as soon as the credits began to roll. “This is how the world ends, not with a bang but a whimper.” For Susan and Michael the world did not end with a bang, but with the loss of sound and sight—the ultimate whimper.