I was lucky enough to catch the first screening anywhere in Europe of Perfect Sense, held the night before the premiere at the Edinburgh International Film Festival before even Ewan McGregor had seen it! At the time of writing I’ve seen nine films at EIFF 2011 and this is the standout.
A love story played out against the onset of the apocalypse, it really is quite astonishingly good.
Ewan McGregor is Michael, head chef at a fine dining restaurant in Glasgow. Eva Green is Susan, an epidemiologist who lives across from the restaurant’s back entrance, where McGregor takes his cigarette breaks. Spotting her at her window, he strikes up a conversation and a romance blossoms.
But Green’s working on a mystery at work: hundreds of cases from around the world are being reported of people being inexplicably overcome with grief before losing their sense of smell. With no connection between the victims, no idea of how it’s spread, or indeed what it even is, the scientific community can merely stand by and watch until everyone on the planet is infected. Before long, people are being stricken with an overwhelming hunger, followed by the loss of taste, and things start to get really frightening for humanity…
On paper the mystery epidemic sounds ridiculous, but the execution is thoroughly beelievable. At first people are worried but the general concensus is that the sense of smell will probably come back. And if it doesn’t? Hey, it has its benefits and it’s hardly the end of the world. In fact at each stage of the development of the disease we’re shown a stricken human race pull itself together and move on in logical ways. For example the restaurant owner can’t taste the expensive brandy he’s getting drunk on and wonders why people will pay for expensive food when all they need to survive is “flour and fat.” Michael assures him that they’ll be okay and a new dining experience emerges based on texture and temperature.
Danish screenwriter Kim Fupz Aakeson for the most part keeps the love story absolutely real also. It’s really the centre of the film in a classic love conquers all story, with the epidemic serving as a series of extreme situations that propel them together and heighten their passion for each other, or pull them apart. McGregor and Green have a wonderful chemistry and while I wasn’t entirely convinced they would gel together they both do great work (Green in particular.)
Unfortunately Aakeson doesn’t nail the love story entirely. Without wanting to give anything away at one point one of the characters behaves completely out of, um, character for a good portion of the film. While watching it’s incredibly frustrating, and it becomes clear at the end that the only reason for this behaviour is to facilitate the end of the film. It’s like Aakeson had the ending in mind and then bent his characters all out of shape to achieve it.
But thankfully the ending is so powerful that all is quickly forgiven. Wow. I was fighting back tears.
Before the screening started we each had to sign an embargo agreement stating that we wouldn’t comment on the film until after the premiere. I was the first to leave the theatre and when I handed mine in – to what looked like an attractive woman but I couldn’t be sure through the tears in my eyes – I asked her “Not even if I want to rave about it?” “I’m afraid not,” she said, smiling.
Damn shame, as I cannot recommend this more highly.
Director: David Mackenzie
Stars:Eva Green, Ewan McGregor and Connie Nielsen
Country: Germany, UK, Sweden, Denmark