When it comes to difficult decisions, choosing which of the best-known apocalyptic scenarios—post-nuclear, zombie, viral, alien invasion, natural disasters, the rise of the machines, and so on—you’d rather deal with is probably about as difficult as they come. None of those sound very fun at all. Unless of course you’ve seen too many movies or played too many video games and think that you could flourish in such an environment, in which case I wish you the very best of luck, Mad Max.
One of the scarier of these scenarios is of course the viral apocalypse because, along with post-nuclear, it seems like it’s something that could actually happen some day, if we’re a very, very unlucky species. Numerous movies have been made on such an apocalypse—some looking at it as a sickness quickly spreading, while others fuse it together with the basic idea behind zombie apocalypses and unleash the fury of them both. But none of them (at least that I know of anyway) has a love story at its core. Which brings us to Perfect Sense.
The movie follows Susan (Eva Green), a scientist who’s studying a strange new string of illnesses that appear to be one in the same. It begins with an immense sense of loss and sadness—every pain you’ve ever felt rushing back on you at once—causing you to sob uncontrollably. Not long after that, you lose your sense of smell. While trying to figure out what might be causing it, if it’s contagious, and if it gets worse than that, Susan is also trying to figure out her own personal life, which isn’t going quite how she expected.
One day she meets Michael (Ewan McGregor), a chef who works across the street from where she lives. She ignores him at first, her mind racing with other troubles, but eventually they get around to talking and hit it off. But as their relationship grows, so does the mysterious virus Susan is studying, and before long it’s catching up to more and more people, taking senses one by one, and leading to devastation. As things continue to get worse, it forces people to figure out how to continue with their lives the best they can…if they can at all.
First of all, this is a beautiful movie. As beautiful as you can be with disaster as a backdrop, anyway. Not only is it shot well, but it integrates photography and some wonderful music that help to give it an artistic but not “artsy” feel. Embedding such pleasantly aesthetic things into your apocalypse movie is not only an ingenious way to get your audience to warm up to your film, but it also helps to enhance the effects of the devastation when it arrives.
I will admit that it took a little bit for me to start getting into Perfect Sense. There’s nothing really wrong with the beginning of the movie, but it is a tad slow and I found myself wondering early whether it would win me over or not. It did. Around the time that the two main characters begin to hit it off and the world starts to go into a pandemic Hell is when I began to see this wonderful little love story dancing with utter tragedy, and it all began to click: this isn’t a movie about a virus or an apocalyptic event, it’s about connecting with another human being, and it’s about finding the things in life—no matter how little they might be—that are familiar and that make you smile or make you feel safe, even in the scariest situations imaginable.
The relationship between McGregor (Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace, Trainspotting) and Green (The Dreamers, Casino Royale) progresses quickly as they latch onto each other in this extraordinary situation, and the chemistry between the two actors is strong, as was expected. Yes, there is a romance budding between them, but even more importantly than that they truly seem to need each other to get through this horrific experience. To keep each other safe in our most vulnerable of moments as a species. A great supporting cast that includes Ewen Bremner (Trainspotting, Snatch), Connie Nielsen (Gladiator, The Devil’s Advocate), and Stephen Dillane (King Arthur, Stannis Baratheon in season 2 of Game of Thrones) also helps bring it all together, but the focus is primarily on the two leads.
Perfect Sense hits many emotional tones and will evoke them in you as you watch, which, for me, is a very good thing. I smiled at warm and touching moments, frowned when things took a turn for the worst, laughed as these characters made the best of a bad situation, and was genuinely concerned as things deteriorated. Some sequences were even downright scary, especially when you put yourself in their shoes.
It’s a movie about the human soul and the resiliency of the human spirit when all hope seems lost, and it will inspire you to find the things in life that make you happy so that you may always turn to them and use them as a shield against even the most ferocious of horrors that await you outside.