Perfect Sense

I wasn’t looking forward to watching another Ewan McGregor film this week. Watching highly recognizable actors play any role in a film can be distracting. For a well written character, I prefer an unknown individual who’s not dragging a load of superstar baggage down the street in their wake. One exception to this rule might be Ben Kingsley, who I can watch on screen for two hours and not even recognize until the credits appear (go figure).

Perfect Sense is a depressing story. It’s about a chef (Ewan McGregor) and an epidemiologist (Eva Green) who are just beginning a relationship. The film is 2 parts apocalypse, 2 parts epidemic, 2 parts romance, 1 part zombie, and a really big squirt of Tabasco. People all over the world inexplicably begin to lose their sense of smell. Not long afterward, everyone looses their sense of taste. Then, the entire population looses its hearing. At that point, one of the scientists delivers the single line you never really want to hear: “I think it’s OK to panic now.” We never learn what causes these illnesses, but we do get a front row seat to the fall of civilization.

I loved movies like 28 Days Later, Shaun of the Dead, The Stand, and the Andromeda Strain. They gave us a detached view of viral apocalypse, sometimes exciting, at other times funny or even educational. In this film, there aren’t any national guard troops shooting at people. There’s no race against the clock to isolate and cure the virus. Events take place, not over a matter of hours, but over the course of months. Neither the CDC nor god is mentioned once (well, I could be wrong about that).

McGregor narrates a series of photography slide shows throughout the movie illustrating how real people in society are coping with their loss. Those interludes provide an injection of empathy that make the events we are witnessing seem all that more real.

Foodies might be interested in how chef McGregor and his kitchen staff change their menu to emphasize texture, temperature and color once everyone’s sense of smell and taste have vanished.

Venue: Seattle International Film Festival, 2011
Language: English
Genre: Romance, Drama