Review: Perfect Sense (2012)

Directed by: David Mackenzie
Starring: Ewan McGregor, Eva Green, Connie Nielsen

Certain films come around that tend to collapse beneath the weight of their own artistic ambition. The occurrence itself is inevitable, but to discredit an entire production on that basis alone just feels shallow and, well, unfair. Perfect Sense is one such film, focusing primarily on an epidemiologist and a womanizing young chef as their relationship begins to bloom amid a mysterious contagion that’s steadily ridding the world’s populace of its senses. While obviously avoiding the more technical, detail-oriented and emotionally detached aspects of last year’s Contagion, David Mackenzie’s foray into similar territory prides itself on sometimes heavy-handed ruminations addressing the nature of the human condition, using an authentic sense of human emotion to further separate it from Steven Soderbergh’s paranoia-inducing predecessor.

Remaining amiably poetic in its handling of the mysterious epidemic at the film’s core, Perfect Sense precedes each sensory loss with slightly overblown, widespread emotional outbursts directly linked to the sense in question. For example, your olfactory sense is indelibly linked to one’s memories, causing any particular individual to slip into a crippling state of depression and subsequent grieving that segues almost immediately into the permanent loss of your sense of smell. It’s these moments that ring true despite their sometimes clunky implementation, and Mackenzie does a bang-up job in balancing out the lingering sense of dread coinciding with this mysterious outbreak with the palpable chemistry established between our two leads.

Mackenzie gives us a taste of hope for these individuals here and there, examining the world’s return to normalcy for a brief period of time before the next instance of sensory deprivation is preceded by a suitable emotional collapse. As a somewhat rueful, even bittersweet examination of humanity rather than dwelling on the search for a cure that quite obviously doesn’t exist, Perfect Sense strongly benefits from its avid appreciation of the finer things in life we tend to overlook or take for granted. Stylistically, the film feels a bit undercooked when paired with the visceral intensity of the aforementioned outbursts, but in terms of substance, it’s light enough to grab a hold of while remaining engaging if occasionally brash regarding its presentation and the inherent likability that pairs wonderfully with the central premise.

McGregor and Green, once again, exhibit stellar chemistry as their characters struggle to maintain a healthy enough romantic bond in light of the abrupt, constant interference of the disease itself. Their efforts are, for lack of a better term, explosive and appreciably engrossing as their mounting frustration mimics the severity of the epidemic, all while they continue to grow as individuals and try to express how they really feel about one another before its too late. Stellar casting choices aside, Perfect Sense is a relatively well-rounded effort that tackles a previously trite premise with a heaping dose of emotional sincerity and philosophical musings dealing exclusively with the nature of humanity as a whole. It isn’t without its faults, namely how overblown certain elements feel when paired with a peculiar lack of concern for the disease that’s slowly depriving literally everyone of their senses, however it manages to compensate for its missteps with a sheer sense of originality and its emotionally involving take on a subject we’ve seen explored time and time again.

Rating: 7/10

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