While this might be relatively redundant based on my demographic, I absolutely love anything and everything apocalyptic. In case you haven’t noticed yet from my flash games article but my apocalyptic event of choice is hands down a pandemic of some new crazy disease preferably something zombie related. So when I heard about David Mackenzie’s apocalypse movie being one of the best movies that has come out so far this year (it technically was released last year but only recently arrived in the states) I was immediately intrigued.
So coming into Perfect Sense I knew only two things about it. First I knew that it was about a worldwide pandemic and second that it was a love story. As the opening credits started rolling I was immediately comforted by a very Dead Island trailer-esque piano number reeking of the end of humanity setting the tone perfectly for what I was hoping for from this movie. Don’t get me wrong, I can enjoy a good romance story it just isn’t my absolute favorite genre so I was further comforted by the discovery of this outbreak within the first ten minutes of the movie. At this point I was pretty confident that I was going to be watching a movie about a pandemic that happened to also have a romantic subplot. I quickly discovered that my assumption was incorrect. After those first ten minutes with the introduction of the pandemic the entire concept is kind of shelved for the first half and only referenced from time to time and instead the film focused on the beginning of the relationship between the two protagonists played by Eva Green and Ewan McGregor.
Eva plays an epidemiologist and is at the forefront of the battle against the out break while Ewan McGregor plays a chef named Michael. These character’s careers are both important aspects of the characters that we are obviously meant to see and for Eva’s character Susan this makes sense. Being an epidemiologist she had an inside view of the happenings and progression of the disease and this allows for an easy way to explain how the outbreak worked to the audience. Because of her career it was immediately clear why we were following her. This was not the case for Michael. Being a chef I didn’t really see how he contributed to the story in a linear sense other than being the romantic interest for Susan especially sense we were seeing equal amounts of both characters, which at this point seemed wasted and unnecessary when we were following Michael.
As I mentioned early, after our brief taste of the outbreak right off the bat the film steered away from that general topic and decided to focus more on the developing relationship of the protagonists. This is where I felt the film was at its weakest and I almost stopped during those first forty-five minutes or so. This isn’t a story of true love with a twist of hardship (which would have been easy to do since the end of humanity classifies as a pretty decent hardship) but is instead a love story about two assholes with no chemistry. I refer to them as assholes because this is one personality trait that is blatantly said about either character. Unfortunately throughout the entire film there isn’t a whole lot of character development for either of these characters other than both of them revealing an intimate personal story of them being such severe assholes that the Susan feels it is reasonable to dub them “Mrs. and Mr. Asshole”. But it’s not only their characters which aren’t fully developed but their relationship as well. Not only was there no chemistry between the two but it was also awkward watching them together. It was based partly on this relationship focused portion of the film that made me feel like McGregor’s character was unnecessary. I couldn’t understand why we were seeing so much of this guy who wasn’t important to the pandemic and didn’t really contribute to a good love story. I found myself constantly waiting for them to get back to further developments on the outbreak that Susan seemed only half-heartedly combating.
So despite this unappealing first portion of the film it got progressively better the further into it I got especially the more and more the disease developed. The outbreak progressed in a manner where the individual would experience an extreme outburst of emotion followed then by the permanent loss of a specific sense, hence the title. For example, the first stage of the disease started with a short but severe bout of depression which was then followed by the loss of scent and the second stage started with extreme horror which then led to the loss of taste. It was after the second stage McGregor’s character’s role started to become clear. Being a chef the outbreak affected him more intensely due to the impacts on his career as well as affectively showing how the population was dealing with the impact of the outbreak. It was around here that my contempt for his character started to vanish. The second stage is also followed by a few ridiculous shots which feel kind of unnecessary.
Now around halfway into this I really started to understand this movie. As each stage progressed the movie broke away to a narrated montage of the effects of the stage around the world. Now I immediately thought this was odd. Why wasn’t it focusing on the main characters? I mean I really liked the montage because the universality of it made it feel more real to me and it was easier to connect and relate to the events of the story as a viewer, but why not focus this powerful moment on the protagonist? Here I started to think back on the film. So far we had an epidemiologist in a position to really fight this outbreak but she isn’t. This wasn’t the self-sacrificing, give-it-your-all Robert Neville from I Am Legend fighting this but an average woman scared and freaked out seeking comfort from a man she clearly wasn‘t meant to be with. There was a relationship but not your standard perfect-for-each-other, true love relationship but something awkward and unnatural. I was wrong in assuming this was an apocalypse/romance movie, it is much rather a movie about a nothing special relationship during the apocalypse that was really all about emotion and how people deal with it. This is a movie about the range of human emotion. The film wasn’t really trying to tell a brilliant love story but instead wanted to make you, the viewer feel something. This explained the lack of chemistry and lack of characterization, it clarified the use of the montage and the purpose the pandemic was utilizing in the film. The characters weren’t strongly developed and we weren’t focusing on them during each phase because this movie isn’t entirely about them: it’s about you, the viewer. After this point I started to enjoy the movie much more. The film started slowly but during the last half it got particularly fantastic peaking at the damn near perfect ending. While the ending is phenomenal it is admittedly predictable and you can see what’s coming from a mile away.
All in all this was a good movie. I may have a lot of complaints about important aspects but all of those weak points seemingly served a purpose. Despite the lack of characterization, both McGregor and Green deliver phenomenal and riveting performances. The film has an absolutely gorgeous soundtrack, all very similar in style to the track in the opening trailer giving the entire film that feel of lost hope. I can’t call this film great because those forty-five minutes of relationship junk is somewhat painful and a relatively long time for a movies purpose to become clear but it is definitely not bad. This isn’t a film I would recommend to a casual audience but rather to someone looking for an original film in a world of repeated stories, looking for an emotionally invoking movie with an absolutely beautiful last moments. This isn’t an apocalypse movie or romance movie but rather a film about human emotion.