‘Perfect Sense,’ reviewed by Marshall Fine


David Mackenzie’s “Perfect Sense” is an end-of-the-world romance in which the world disappears incrementally. Being involved in this velvet apocalypse is a little like being the Cheshire cat, unable to control which part of you will disappear next.

Like Steven Soderbergh’s “Contagion” and Fernando Meirelles’ “Blindness,” Mackenzie’s cataclysm comes in the form of an unexplained epidemic. But Mackenzie’s view of this event tends to be more microcosmic. Though he shows bits of each stage of the mysterious illness in other parts of the world, his focus primarily is on two people in Edinburgh, Scotland: a chef named Michael (Ewan McGregor) and an epidemiologist named Susan (Eva Green).

They meet because her apartment windows overlook the alley onto which the back door of Michael’s restaurant opens. He brazenly tries to pick her up and, when it works, he finds himself attracted by her slightly cold and impersonal approach to sex – not unlike his own.

Even as they are getting to know each other, the pandemic breaks out. The first manifestation? People inexplicably are thrown into a state of profound grief, weeping uncontrollably – and when that passes (in about 15 minutes), they discover they’ve lost their sense of smell.

Eventually, doctors figure out that nothing seems to stop this illness and that no one is immune, no matter what precautions are taken: germ masks, quarantines and so on. Not long afterward it strikes again: People are overcome with ravenous hunger, eating every foodstuff in sight in gluttonous amounts, again for about 15 minutes. When they emerge from this eating delirium, they find that they’ve lost their sense of taste.

It moves through the other senses – but not before Mackenzie and writer Kim Aakeson have time to explore the impact of the loss of each individual sense.

This review continues on my website.

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