You sense an instant prognosis of pretentiousness with the opening words of soundtrack narration in a horror called Perfect Sense: “There is darkness. And there is light. There are men and there are women. There is fruit. There are restaurants. Disease. There is work. Traffic.” And there is Ewan McGregor, who makes entirely too many movies and only occasionally makes an effort to speak the kind of English anyone can understand.
There is also an epidemic sweeping Scotland that leaves its victims unable to smell—a mysterious virus spreading grief and fits of sobbing. Mr. McGregor is Michael, a scruffy Glasgow chef who falls for Susan (played by professional sexpot Eva Green), a neurotic epidemiologist whose apartment overlooks the alley behind his restaurant where he goes to chain smoke endless unfiltered cigarettes. The plague spreads throughout the world, but these two seem oblivious to the calamity going on around them. Instead, this loopy couple indulges in binges of sex, giving the two stars ample opportunity to cavort around in the buff, which both of them have had plenty of experience doing in other films. Cut from the same bolt of plague-genre sci-fi fabric as François Mireille’s Blindness and Steven Soderbergh’s Contagion, it’s another yawn in a line of cautionary tales designed to scare the living daylights out of us every time we sip a glass of tap water. Nothing is ever explained about the cause or origin of the deadly disease, which is called S.O.S. (sensory olfactory syndrome) because it begins with the nose before it eventually destroys all five senses. The pestilence goes global, spreading chaos, rage, hate and violence; the streets become battlegrounds and turn into vacant lots of abandoned cars (all relayed on TV news footage). By the time it attacks the taste buds, people go crazy with hunger and start devouring everything from raw animals to tubes of lipstick. If the customers can no longer tell the difference between lamb chops and Ajax, you can imagine the toll this takes on the restaurant business. As food becomes a distant memory, life goes on, making way for new sensations. Michael’s job goes down the drain, but not to worry. The lovers just get naked again, retire to the bathtub and eat the soap. Deafness is next and the screen goes silent (not nearly as much fun as The Artist). By the time blindness set in, I had beaten them to the punch and stopped watching already.
Directed by David MacKenzie, who has an obsession with Mr. McGregor’s wee-wee (showing it off even more in the bleak, disastrous, 2003 river-barge thriller About Adam), this film is about the end of the world by ecological apocalypse, but neither Mr. MacKenzie’s plodding direction nor the ropey screenplay by someone named Kim Fupz Aakeson (I defy you to say that one 10 times in a row without getting acid reflux) manages to shed any fresh insight or provide an original point of view. It’s so vague that you rarely see Eva Green’s lab, and although Ewan McGregor is occasionally shown reducing a sauce or basting a chicken, he could just as well be a garage mechanic. If you crave action, dialogue, explanations, character revelations and clear plot resolutions, Perfect Sense never lives up to its title.
Running Time 92 minutes
Written by Kim Fupz Aakeson
Directed by David Mackenzie
Starring Ewan McGregor, Eva Green and Connie Nielsen