You'll wish you'd lost your sense of hearing when you hear Judge Daryl Loomis sing.
Without love, there is nothing.
The old adage of not knowing what you have until it's gone is taken to the extreme in Perfect Sense, a science fiction romance that presents a near future in which the people of Earth begin to lose their senses one by one. It's a scary proposition from director David Mackenzie (Young Adam) and writer Kim Fupz Aakeson (En soap), and a reasonably effective feature that arrives on Blu-ray from MPI.
Facts of the Case
Michael (Ewan McGregor, Big Fish) is a skilled chef who sees a beautiful woman in a window in the building behind his restaurant. From the street, he tries to get her to talk to him and, finally, she relents. She is Susan (Eva Green, The Dreamers), an epidemiologist working on a bizarre epidemic where people's sense of smell is disappearing following a strange period of sudden and deep grief. As the thing spreads to other senses, Michael and Susan start to fall in love and they realize that without anything else, love must abide.
The triumph of love during an apocalypse scenario isn't particularly original, but Mackenzie makes it work well within his gimmick. The progressive loss of the senses allows for clear structuring and, once it happens the first time at the beginning of the film, it becomes pretty easy to accept from there.
After starting with the grief and olfactory loss, it moves on to a sudden gorging followed by the loss of taste. This, like the smell issue, has a direct effect on Michael, who must reinvent his cooking each time this occurs. First, the loss of smell forces him to start using heavy spices. Then, the loss of taste, thought by everybody to be the loss of the dining industry, becomes an opportunity to start using different textures and temperatures and, sure enough, the restaurant keeps operating. The loss of these two senses becomes something the world can live with—life goes on—but when the next sense to go is hearing, it becomes a panic.
Here, Mackenzie starts telling the story much more conventionally and this is where it becomes a little manipulative. Before the loss of hearing comes a brief period of furious anger, directed at nobody and everybody. Wouldn't you know it, Michael blows up at Susan, she freaks out, and they separate. Now, the focus turns to their reconciliation and this is something we've seen a million times before. Still, I must say the execution of it is strong. It got me a little emotional and, even it is a little bit cheap emotionally, it works, for better or for worse.
A lot of the effectiveness comes from the easy chemistry between McGregor and Green. They're beautiful people and solid performers who rise above the sometimes clichéd nature of their characters. They sell the emotion in the story really well and, as they are the only two characters with large roles, they carry almost all of the film's weight.
Mackenzie directs the film in a straightforward style without many frills, but it's effective. For science fiction, it's pretty quiet, but it works especially for the romance, which is really the primary issue over the apocalypse. The way he deals with the panic is probably the most interesting thing about the story. Instead of what we normally see, which is a global pandemic filled with montages of the world freaking out. There are short bits of this, just to give the sense that this is not singular to Scotland, but Mackenzie deals with the issue as a microcosm focused almost exclusively on Edinburgh. It makes the story seem smaller and more intimate than most sci-fi. It heightens the emotions, which no doubt amplifies the manipulation, but it feels right.
MPI's Blu-ray of Perfect Sense is technically very good, but terribly deficient on extras. The 2.35:1/1080p image is quite nice, with strong clarity and detail throughout the frame. The color palette is drab for the most part, but it's well represented on the disc. Black levels are strong and whites are bright, but it isn't the most visually compelling movie in the world. The DTS-HD Master audio track, again, is not particularly dynamic, but it doesn't need to be. The dialog is completely clear and the music, while subtle, comes through pretty well. There isn't a lot of work in the surround channels, but there's enough for a little immersion. There's only one extra on the disc, and it would be better if it wasn't even there. It's a "featurette" that amounts to a trailer and a fifteen second interview. Totally worthless.
The disc could be better, and so could the movie, but both are more than acceptable. The acting is very strong and, while the story is a little bit manipulative, it works. I don't know that it's going to be a film I go back to anytime soon, but for what it is, it's well done.
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