Perfect Sense on DVD

What would you do if you gradually started losing your senses, one by one? Would you despair and give up on life or embrace it, cherishing others and those things you can still enjoy? That is the premise of this fantastic new movie starring Ewan McGregor and Eva Green. Susan (Green) is Glasgow-based epidemiologist, one of the first people to discover the outbreak of a global phenomenon that is causing people to lose their sense of smell. Michael (McGregor) is a chef at a restaurant across the road from Susan’s flat.

The affliction, cleverly nicknamed Severe Olfactory Syndrome or ‘SOS’ starts slowly at first, and the warning sign that a victim is about to lose their sense of smell is that they suffer a moment of overwhelming grief for all that they have lost and regret in life. Scientists are bewildered and whilst people panic a little as the condition spreads, they quickly learn to redress the balance by focusing on the senses that remain. Then the second wave strikes everyone at once, causing momentary ravenous hunger followed by the loss of taste.

Perfect Sense - on DVDPeople cling to the hope that the disease or whatever it is causing the problem will end there, robbing them of their chemical-based senses but not any of the others. With taste gone, chefs like Michael realise they can cook up food that has interesting textures and makes notable noises to stimulate their customers in other ways. Meanwhile, he and Susan become increasingly close as they share the ebb and flow of sensory loss and then the compensatory joy of experiencing aspects of life in new ways.

“Perfect Sense” is a thinking-man’s sci-fi film, full of emotion, poetry and intelligence.

There are many qualities to admire in the story, the acting and the direction by David Mackenzie (“Young Adam”). Just the act of removing people’s senses would surely have been interesting, but to combine it with the varied emotional foreshadowing is a master stroke. It fills both the audience and characters with dread; each revelation of the next wave is accompanied by the certainty that the syndrome will get round to everyone eventually.

The film concentrates mostly on a small group of characters – friends and colleagues, but it also goes a little way to highlighting how the world at large is being affected by the sense loss, and the moves made by governments to try to both solve and contain the outbreak and to help the afflicted. There is an excellent sense of continuity and feasibility to the whole production that helps the audience suspend their sense of disbelief. It does not get too obsessed with the scientific side of things, though, preferring to focus on characters and situations.

McGregor and Green share decent chemistry and the supporting cast including Ewen Bremner as a fellow kitchen worker, Denis Lawson (McGregor’s real-life uncle) as the restaurant owner and Alastair Mackenzie (the director’s brother) as a colleague of Susan’s all help to flesh out the tale.

I wholly recommend this film to everyone; its attraction will certainly stretch beyond sci-fi fans and those who enjoy a good end-of-the-world style apocalypse. It is an emotional rollercoaster of a movie with as many tense, gripping moments as it has chilled-out scenes that revel in the good things in life. There are several generous dollops of humour to keep things buoyant, too. The ending might not be everyone’s cup of tea but for me it did indeed make perfect sense.

Special features are pretty sparse on this release, comprising a very short, opportunist interview with McGregor at the Edinburgh Film Festival and a making-of featurette. Although neither star features, Bremner, Lawson and Alastair Mackenzie give a decent account of what the film was like to make. My main regret is the absence of a commentary track as it would have been nice to hear how the actors prepared for each sense loss.

“Perfect Sense" (2011) is out now on DVD, courtesy of Arrow Films. The main feature has a running time of 92 minutes approx, carries a ‘15’ certificate and retails for £12.99, or less from www.culttvstore.com

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