Perfect Sense | On Demand review
Love blossoms during a viral epidemic in the new film from the director of Young Adam.
For those who found Steven Soderbergh’s Contagion too clinical, here’s the antidote: an epidemic movie that puts you out in the streets with the infected. Not so much a thriller as an end-of-days melodrama, the latest from David Mackenzie (Young Adam, Spread) envisions a world caught in the grip of a mysterious super-plague that systematically short-circuits your senses. The first symptom is an uncontrollable burst of feeling (“the Emola Virus”?) followed by a permanent inability to smell. From here, the disease mutates, deep-sixing a different human survival tool with each new strain.
There’s a lot of dread in that premise, but what’s interesting about Perfect Sense is the way it dares to imagine how the world might continue, day to day, during such a nightmare scenario. (Food critics, for example, shift their criteria to temperature and texture once humanity’s palates go numb.) The narrative swirls around a pair of damaged pretty people—a gourmet chef (Ewan McGregor) and an epidemiologist (Eva Green)—who fall into a tentative love affair after the initial outbreak. Neither character is particularly compelling, but the actors have chemistry, and the circumstances surrounding the couple’s relationship lend it a certain doomed-romantic charge. Mostly what lingers are the snapshots of a planet disappearing into darkness, one vital sense at a time. A final embrace—the most sentimental moment in a very sentimental movie—recalls the tender climax of Don McKellar’s undervalued Last Night. Love and the apocalypse, it turns out, make an infectious combo. (Available on VOD; see ifcfilms.com for details.)