"Without love, there is nothing."
Holding onto something during extraordinary circumstances is nothing new. The ability to connect with another human being is one of life's greatest joys. And when the shit hits the fan, who better to share it with then someone you truly care for?
This describes in a nutshell director David Mackenzie's (SPREAD) latest work, PERFECT, when two people, Ewan McGregor and Eva Green, fall in love midst a global pandemic. Reading that last sentence aloud makes the premise sound rather banal, but McGregor and Green play it straight here, injecting a sense of realism among the surrounding chaos. The crisis is one we've never seen before. So many times the invisible killer is a bacteria, or a virus, one that ravages the population, dwindling its numbers. In a unique way, the plague that lays waste to the citizens leaves not boils, nor bleeding, but rather it attacks the bodies' senses, snatching them away one by one.
In a world slowly decaying of a sensory robbing disease, McGregor and Green play Michael and Susan, who are (of course) a chef and an epidemiologist--someone who tracks the patterns of health-events. Michael works at a restaurant conveniently located across from Susan's apartment. On a break, he bums a cigarette, a light, and some mild conversation. Earlier we learn that he is a regular Lothario, snagging women on the regular, then dismissing them just as quickly. Soon after the affliction begins, they begin a relationship. They eventually begin to confide in one another about their past, but the information they share seems forced, in regards to their association and the plot in general. Somewhat irritating is how much time they spend together while society falls apart. For someone whose occupation is finding answers for these particular occurences, she spends a lot of time laying around in the nude.
A nameless woman's voice leads us throughout the story, explaining the goings-on of the world around us, and what faculty the characters are losing next. We're constantly told that we'll adapt, life goes on. The device though proves jarring, and ultimately unnecessary, as it takes away from the natural flow of the narrative. McGregor and Green are talented enough to illustrate to the viewer that they can't taste chicken, or hear themselves speak.
It's an interesting and scary dynamic to think of, how we as a society would react to something we so obviously take for granted if it was lost to us. The disease's origins are never explained, no monkey to blame for this one. One day you're fine, the next you're not. Each time you lose a sense, it's preceded by a fleeting exhibition of emotion: sadness, euphoria, fits of uncontrollable rage.
Eva Green is a joy to watch. She portrays Susan with a mature innocence, if that makes any sense. Ever since her debut in 2003's THE DREAMERS, she continues to deliver performances that have a burning calmness to them. Like she's always tiptoeing the edge of mania. I've remarked about McGregor many times on this site. He remains an underappreciated presence in Hollywood. With SENSE, and his work in BEGINNERS also this year, I'd wager more admiration will be coming his way before long.
While the film is shot beautifully around Glasgow, there's a sustained sadness that's prevalent, despite the credible love story. In addition, Mackenzie does very well to capture the instability that would certainly permeate within the masses. Ultimately, despite appreciable work from McGregor and Green, Sense flounders ever so slightly when it falls into a monotonous trap of succumbing, then making peace with the malady's various attacks. It remains to be seen whether Michael and Susan would have ever kept up without the backdrop of an impending apocalypse. We look for any vein of normalcy when our surroundings offer otherwise. In a not so Beatle-ish way, At one point, the voiceover tells us that love is all we need. In a manner of speaking she's correct, but, when we lose the ability to view their face, a seeing eye dog couldn't hurt either.