Perfect Sense is well named, because it is a perfect film. And that’s not a word I use lightly. This is a movie that speaks to body, mind and soul. It is a movie of heavy emotion, brilliantly absurdist comedy and more innovation than an entire summersworth of the usual Hollywood drivel. In short, it’s the kind of movie that reminds me why I choose to be a critic.

Perfect Sense follows the relationship of Chef Michael (Ewan McGregor) and epidemiologist Susan (Eva Green), two flawed human beings who stumble into a romance just as everyone in the world begins to lose their sensory perceptions. What follows is a tale of human resilience in the face of a gradual apocalypse, with the main characters finding love as the world fades away around them.

This then is a thematically strong piece of cinema. The underlying belief here is the sense that humanity lies, not in our everyday life (or as the movie puts it, ‘the flour and the fat’), but in all the little details. That to be human implies doing more than simply surviving. To say this is a theme well conveyed would be an understatement: it is at the core of all that happens onscreen.

And this is not the only way that the intelligence of Perfect Sense manifests itself. The exploration of what might happen in a society where everyone is losing their senses is supremely innovative. My favourite example was how food changes. After all even once the senses of smell and taste are gone, the social need for restaurants as meeting places remains. Writer Kim Fupz Aakeson plays with this problem by having food become valued for texture and appearance instead of taste. The sight of a fancy meal having become essentially an art installation on a plate is something that perfectly illustrates the alien character of this new, senseless world.

This then is an intelligent film. But it is also a gripping movie. Both Michael and Susan are characters whose relationship you genuinely care about. For her, it signifies the end of a long, embittering period of maltreatment by ‘arseholes’ of the opposite sex. For him, a self-confessed member of the arsehole brigade, his feelings about Susan are a new and special discovery.

The fact that the main characters are ripe for investment is helped along by the chemistry between the two leads. Both do well on their own of course. As a connoisseur of sarcasm, I consider Green’s mocking eyes/wry smile combo the very height of acting, and McGregor does well at playing a right smoothie. But really the height of the performances can be seen in the way the two behave around each other. Characterwise, we know their relationship means a lot to them, but it is up to the actors to really convince us of it. Well, by the end of the film, the fact that I was openly begging the plot to let them overcome their differences would suggest that I was taken in.

Perfect Sense then is a film with both serious visceral power and intellectual heft. And it is also stuffed full of soul. This is partly thanks to Max Richter’s brilliant score, which beautifully captures the spirit of the film. In the competing positive and negative strains of the tune, you can hear the persistent human race doggedly clinging to the things that makes it human, despite all the tragedy the apocalypse brings. This image, when it is conveyed by events visual and audible, inspires a feeling that can only be described as glorious.

I think I’ve said all I need to now. Perfect Sense does everything a film is supposed to do: entertains, philosophises and goes that single step beyond to capture a truth of the human condition. And I know that sounds like poncy artistic rubbish, but I don’t care. Simply calling this a good film is not doing it justice. This is an artistic masterpiece, and the reason we have poncy artsy language is so, when the time comes, we can praise such masterpieces properly.

Rating: 5/5

Reviewer: Adam Brodie
DVD/BD Release: 30 January 2012
Director: David Mackenzie
Stars: Ewan McGregor, Eva Green , Connie Nielsen
Rating: 15 (UK)

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