Perfect Sense

Perfect Sense

Static Mass Rating: 2/5
Arrow Video

Release date: January 30th, 2012
Certificate (UK): 15
Running time: 92 minutes

Director: David Mackenzie
Writer: Kim Fupz Aakeson
Composer: Max Richter

Cast: Eva Green, Ewan McGregor, Ewan Bremner, Stephen Dillane

In modern-day Glasgow, chef Michael (Ewan McGregor) kicks his one night stand out of his bed before he goes to sleep. Susan (Eva Green) is a depressed epidemiologist, throwing stones at birds with her sister following a bad break-up. Both are unaware their chosen paths are going to cross and be called into question like never before.

At the hospital, Susan examines a man who, after experiencing a moment of hyper-intense grief, has lost his sense of smell. Soon, similar cases from around the world are reported; it’s an epidemic. They dub it severe olfactory syndrome, SOS for short, and there is no cure and no apparent cause.

Michael and Susan have just met cute, her tossing him cigarettes from the open window and calling him sailor. He cooks for her, and as first dates are wont to go, they both end up crying and devastated, holding on to each other as they lose their senses of smell to SOS.

As the relationship develops, the unknown epidemic gains momentum. Is it possible to fall in love when the world is falling apart?

Perfect Sense

Perfect Sense is a love story set against the backdrop of a possible apocalypse. The end of the world is inescapable, and in this film, it’s playing the long game. Humanity is given the time to lament and regret, but also the chance to redeem, and take on what’s left with a renewed enthusiasm, although desperation permeates through many day to day actions.

The budding romance between Susan and Michael is unlikely, in ordinary circumstances their personalities would now allow for such an intense relationship; she seems to hate all men, and he doesn’t like to sleep in a bed with someone else. Through mutual uncertainty and desperation however, they cling to each other rather than facing a terrible future alone. I find this an honest beginning for a relationship, rather than a fairytale conception of true love across the courtyard.

The loss of physical senses is an extremely interesting concept, but one that I don’t feel was explored to its fullest potential. The science behind the so-called epidemic was non-existent, and that really lessened the impact of the events for me. To say that they know ‘nothing’ about the illness doesn’t wash, perhaps because I was much more interested in the science than the relationship. I couldn’t suspend my disbelief enough to justify Susan making out with Michael all the time instead of saving humanity.

Perfect Sense

She’s an epidemiologist in the middle of the most serious kind of epidemic, and she’s busy eating soap and worshipping sub-woofers with a roguish chef? Thanks Susan, thanks for leaving the rest of us to die!

For a self-proclaimed sci-fi film, there just isn’t enough science and it leaves too many questions unasked and unanswered. I couldn’t help but notice how no one in the picture commits suicide; Perfect Sense seemed to shy away from the bigger picture in too many ways, and became too fixated on the central pair.

Having the restaurant be a focal part of the film was a smart move on Mackenzie’s part, as it allowed the adaptability, of “life going on” as the narration reminded us. When smell disappeared, they put chilli in everything. When taste went, they concentrated on texture and colour, and people still lived. This was the most inspirational part of the film for me; these shots were food-pornography and believable too, much more so than the episodic ‘here are some people in India and Kenya who have also lost their senses’ scenes. I found these to be superfluous, especially as the main characters don’t take us out of central Glasgow.

Perfect Sense

More jarring, however, was the narration, explaining that “life goes on”, and the ins and outs of the course of the epidemic, but after we’ve already been shown them. It stilted the flow and tension of the movie, and if not cut entirely, could have been used more sparingly. The plot is not complicated, and the audience doesn’t need to be patronised.

Acting performances from both McGregor and Green were solid and believable, McGregor as a “loveable asshole”, and Green as uptight and over-thinking. In the course of their relationship, they (cliché alert!) realise the errors of their ways and begin to find solace in each other, and some quite sweet and touching scenes follow.; the scene in the bath in particular. They eat soap and shaving foam just because they can and because they are hungry for sensation.


  • Ewan McGregor at the EIFF (03:26)
  • Making Perfect Sense (17:00)

Perfect Sense is not as inspirational and life-affirming as it is touted to be. A global web of depression and human cruelty interjected with sexual encounters between two unlikely lovers isn’t enough, though I suppose if anything was going to make you appreciate your sense of sight, a naked McGregor would be it.

In the end, it didn’t seem quite sure of what it wanted to be; a sci-fi or a love story, gritty or romantic, and this combined with an incomplete script made for an imperfect film.

Perfect Sense

About Frances Taylor

Frances Taylor

Frances likes words and pictures, regardless of media. She finds great comfort and escape in film, and is attracted to anything character-driven with a strong story. Through these stories, she will find meaning in the world. Three movies that Frances thinks are really good for this are You and Me and Everyone We Know (Miranda July), I’m A Cyborg, But That’s OK (Chan-Wook Park), and How I Ended This Summer (Alexei Popogrebsky).

When Frances grows up, she would like to write words and make pictures and have cool people recognise her on the street and tell her that they really enjoy her work.

She can be found overreacting and over-caffeinated on Twitter @penny_face, a childhood moniker from her grandmother owing to her gloriously round face.