How many times can we be force fed the same movie about two beautiful, but damaged people trying to learn how to love again? What Perfect Sense does have going for it is its backdrop. The choice of a decaying world losing its senses may sound like an unlikely setting for a love story, and it is, but unfortunately the film doesn’t do enough with it.
In one of the film’s most sensational moments, Michael, in a moment of rage, tells Susan that she’s nothing special. Evidently, the filmmakers had difficulty taking their own advice. Perfect Sense had the potential to be something unique and possibly even groundbreaking, but its struggles are too great for the film to overcome.
The biggest issue with the film is that the backdrop, which is easily one of the most compelling parts of the film, and the love story are far too disjointed. Especially given that Susan is an epidemiologist, there is a disturbing lack of focus on the worldwide loss of senses. Instead, it is only utilized in very specific moments where it suits the characters’ and their actions. While supporting characters are shown weeping after losing their sense of smell, Susan’s loss of smell only serves as a catalyst to get the two leads in bed together. After that, it is afforded one line of dialogue and barely mentioned again.
What makes this most disheartening is that Perfect Sense is not entirely consistent in its execution. While smell is written off in the earlier moments of the film, when the rest of the senses degrade, the film takes on their burden. For instance, with the loss of hearing, the film goes almost entirely silent with the exception of a few orchestral pieces. Perfect Sense has the ability and the talent to take on this story, but it isn’t always given the attention that is necessary. This makes the well-executed scenes somewhat bittersweet. They are absolutely emotionally devastating, but it’s equally upsetting the see the film’s potential realized when it is so casually disregarded in other moments of the film.
Another element of the film that could be seen as profound, but instead comes across as lazy, is the film’s tendency to over narrate. There is a steady flow of narration in key moments in the film, where the film cuts to still photographs of flowers blooming and babies crying. While it is undoubtedly meant to show the totality of human life as the world devolves into madness, it feels as if it is a watered-down attempt to recreate Chris Marker’s Sans Soleil.
Ewan McGregor and Eva Green attempt to make the best of what is handed to them and both actors deserve a fair amount of credit. Green is luminous as usual, but also manages to channel a quiet intensity to her character. It’s a shame that she isn’t given more of an opportunity to play the part of epidemiologist Susan, but the movie tends to squander her considerable talents on half-hearted love scenes. McGregor, on the other hand, has difficulty establishing his character on his own. The role of Michael is the stereotypical womanizer attempting to reform and Perfect Sense never really allows him to go beyond that. However, when the two share the screen together, it is absolutely captivating.
Unfortunately, although Perfect Sense feels as if it is two completely separate movies, Mackenzie treats them as one. As a romance, Perfect Sense is neither adventurous, nor is it particularly new or insightful. Furthermore, Mackenzie is too preoccupied with his love story to fully flesh out what started out as a promising backdrop. In the end, Perfect Sense feels, at times, too busy and in other moments, as hollow as its protagonists.