In Perfect Sense, there’s a possible global pandemic which may just be the End Times. It begins with people being hit with an intense emotional sadness, balling over into crying lumps, and when they dry their eyes, they no longer have their sense of smell. Further emotion/sense symptoms follow from there. Some people will already be out with this emotional aspect — they’ll find it silly. And it is a little silly. Others will be pissed that questions about this pandemic go unanswered. How did it start? How did it spread? How does it work? Is there an immunity or a cure. Not the point.
The film is a poetic romance, with these possible End Times and humanity’s capability to adapt and survive serving as a background. If you understand this going in, you’re far more likely to enjoy the film, if you’re into relationship movies. Susan (Eva Green) is an epidemiologist in Glasgow studying this thing that’s going on in the world, and she’s also getting over a recent heartbreak. Mike (Ewan McGregor) is a chef at a restaurant near Susan’s flat, and he’s a cad with no apparent intent to get into a serious relationship. But they end up sharing an intense emotional night as a result of this pandemic, and an eventual relationship slowly blossoms.
That’s the film, tracking both Susan and Mike’s relationship and, to a lesser extent, the global effect of this pandemic that is stripping people of their senses (paired with additional emotional outbursts). As people lose their senses, they largely adapt, cope and carry on with their lives, and we particularly see this through Mike. How does a chef and his restaurant adapt and cook for people who can’t smell or, worse yet, have no sense of taste? There are periodic voiceover monologues which provide further exposition about the pandemic and its emotional and sense-stripping symptoms, and showing the global-wide effects.
Again, I realize the emotional aspect of this pandemic is silly when written out, and sometimes a little silly on the screen. But overall, it tees up some important and strong beats in Susan and Mike’s growing relationship, and it allows McGregor and Green to do a lot with their roles. (And yes, both of them show their naughty bits). The rest of the cast is solid, too, although they’re given a lot less to work with, and Ewan Bremner (playing a friend and colleague of Mike’s) gets a special hat-tip.
The movie is beautifully shot, aside from a few handheld shots that felt out of place, and carries a continuing and growing sense of dread and eventual heartbreak, even while showing the growth of this relationship between Mike and Susan. Perfect Sense is neither a fun nor comfortable movie to watch, nor is it a perfect movie, but it is a very good, emotional film.