Film Review: Perfect Sense

A strong candidate for the most nauseating film of the year, in <i>every </i>sense.

What the hell is happening in Perfect Sense? The setting is Scotland, where people are going crazy losing their senses. It begins with smell and seems to be a worldwide phenomenon as well, inducing pathological actions and general chaos, as taste, hearing and eventually sight shut down.

Epidemiologist Susan (Eva Green) is trying to figure it all out, but she’s additionally damaged by a recent relationship break-up. Needy Susan meets her neighbor, a chef named Michael (Ewan McGregor), and as he is the type who cannot stand intimacy to the point of never sharing his bed with a sexual partner through the night, they immediately become involved. They flirt, play games, come together, break up, can’t live apart and eventually reunite as total darkness descends everywhere.

One supposes the blame here should begin with Danish screenwriter Kim Fupze Aakeson, who matches his pretentious apocalyptic visions with an equally lofty, equally infuriating narrative device, with Green intoning a lot of gibberish about the destruction she observes daily. It’s all very Scandinavian, filled with dread, doom and gloom, and director David Mackenzie ladles onto the impossible text desaturated, shakily handheld imagery which merely adds to the stomach-turning excess. Worse, he intercuts hideously exploitative footage from Third World countries like India, Mexico and Kenya to lend some kind of bogus gravitas. It makes the knuckleheaded Contagion seem a masterpiece by comparison, and the overall maladroitness peaks in the sequences dealing with the loss of taste, in which you see ravenous people all over the world maniacally biting into non-edibles like raw whole fish, cosmetics, vats of mustard and other nausea-inducing substances. You watch all this foolishness and merely think, “Desperate actors.”

Green, who seems to be channeling Charlotte Rampling at her most eccentric, and the always preternaturally young-looking McGregor should be commended, I suppose, for their dedication, but there’s not much they can do in the way of real acting given such material. They’re awfully pretty at first—before required to do disgusting things—and, as is the accustomed wont of these two actors, get naked a lot. (I sometimes feel I know their bodies better than my own.) One imagines a lot of improv went on here as well, as in the bathtub scene they share while happily munching on a bar of soap. “Oops! It went into my eye!” McGregor exclaims, and you think even the sharp sting of that would be preferable to watching this film.