Michael (Ewan McGregor) and Susan (Eva Green) find each other as the world tumbles into chaos; they find comfort in each other and ultimately fall in love.
A virus that attacks the central nervous system, stripping away the senses, dominates the apocalyptic world of Perfect Sense. The senses of smell, taste, hearing and sight are slowly removed from the population, with each loss preceded by an uncontrollable emotional symptom; each is a warning of what will be lost. Grief immediately before the loss of smell; as though warning people that the link between smells and memory will soon be lost. Before taste, hunger; the urge to eat everything within reach and taste it for the last time. Before hearing, rage; people will never hear their family’s voices or their favourite song again – this seems to be the realisation that there is no going back. Finally, before sight, joy which moves people towards those that make them happiest, so they can spend their days in darkened silence, comforted that they are surrounded by love.
Ewan McGregor and Eva Green’s characters are at the centre of this. As their relationship takes tentative steps, the results of the virus pushes them closer together until they depend on one another. McGregor is, as always, charming and sweet – even when he is throwing a one night stand out of his bed. McGregor is infused with a sense of wonder at the world and he finds the best in an impossible situation, through his work as a chef, by making meals that no longer hinge on taste, but temperature, appearance and texture. Green as Susan is more cautious than Michael; she has been hurt before and does not want to embark on a relationship. As the situation disintegrates, however, she finds comfort in Michael and her cool exterior begins to weaken.
A first date that leads to uncontrollable crying and seeing your potential partner at their most vulnerable may seem like a recipe for disaster, but director David McKenzie creates order in chaos; the symptoms that come before each loss, combined with a sense of helplessness and a desire to survive draw the characters together. Perfect Sense is atmospherically filmed, using silence and sound in equal measure, to make the most of the emotional reaction to the loss of the senses. Narration provides a little explanation, and the ‘news’ clips give context to Michael and Susan’s plight.
Perfect Sense is as dark a film as can be expected, but in the darkness, the relationship at the centre of the film – and the forced sense of joy before the loss of sight – provides reassurance to the characters and the audience. Little explanation is given of the virus that has afflicted the world, or what will happen now that the planet is paralysed, but this is not an outbreak story, it is one of emotional connection and love.