SUNDANCE REVIEW: Engaging Ewan McGregor Caught in a Dense 'Perfect Sense' Plot

A listless romance set amid a worldwide epidemic suffers from story overload.

The actor, along with a brooding Eva Green, star in an emotionally barren movie directed by David Mackenzie.

PARK CITY -- Perfect Sense is dense: It's a very complex and intelligent story hybrid that, must have looked great on paper and sounded impressive in discussion, but as a movie, it splatters all over the screen in unsatisfying genetic mutations. Starring Ewan McGregor and Eva Green, Perfect Sense had its world premiere here at the Sundance Film Festival.

Truly, it's a “big” story as people all over the world become afflicted with strange symptoms: They lose their sense of smell, hearing and then their emotions erupt in pathological behavior, all pointing to, likely, an apocalyptic catastrophe. There's also a world-cooling factor thrown into the over-worked story equation that, well, points to a potential nightmare ending of, indeed, “when hell freezes over.”

In this end-of-world scenario, Green stars as Susan, an epidemiologist who is brought in to help when doctors notice the strange malady, loss of smell, is cropping up all over Great Britain. There seems to be no discernible connection between the afflicted, and Green sets out to discover, perhaps, the biological/physiological catalyst of the disease.

The task is particularly daunting for the star researcher since she is afflicted with her own malady, a shattered love affair. Indeed, Susan is brittle and, incidentally, a bit of a cold fish. She's vulnerable to a rebound which, happens, almost immediately with a handsome local chef, Michael (McGregor), whose sensitivity and working-class charm intrigue her. However, they're not a pair you'd expect to develop a long-term relationship. While Susan is wary and self-protective, Michael is not much on intimacy, can't spend the entire night with a woman. In short, they're polar replicates, and you can see will drive each other away, probably sooner than later.

Essentially, Perfect Sense is emotionally barren, despite its catastrophic trappings. While McGregor is engaging as the charismatic chef, Green is such a porcelain brooder that we're never drawn either the urgency of her save-the-world task or supportive of her dysfunctional love life.

It's a bit like Sam Raimi meets George Orwell and Michael Crichton on a bad day. In this imaginative stitching, the afflicted develop bizarre cravings for non-edible objects: Scenes of people wolfing down lipstick, jugs of mustard, whole fish, slabs of meat and other stomach-turners are certainly captivating, but out-of-sync tonally with the floundering love story.

Screenwriter Kim Fupz Aakeson certainly posits many provocative ideas but crams too scientific, “Revelations,” musings upon characters who never win our hearts. Dealing with the numerous generic adhesions that occlude the story, director David Mackenzie skillfully manages to establish proper tones and dynamics to the varied subplots, but overall, Mackenzie cannot patch Perfect Sense into anything more than a truly imperfect movie.

The technical contributions are aesthetically articulate and accomplished: Director of photography Giles Nuttgens' chilly pallet aptly triggers apprehension and doom, while composer Max Richter's dour and baleful score nicely conveys both the characters' emotional frigidity, as well as the film's dreary premise.

Venue: Sundance Film Festival, Premieres
Production: Sigma Films, Subotica Entertainment, Zentropa Entertainments
Cast: Ewan McGregor, Eva Green, Connie Nielsen, Ewen Bremner, Stephen Dillane, Denis Lawson, Alastair Mackenzie
Director: David Mackenzie
Screenwriter: Kim Fupz Aakeson
Producers: Gillian Berrie, Matte Grunert
Director of photography: Giles Nuttgens
Production designer: Tom Sayer
Music: Max Richter
Editor: Jake Roberts
Costume designer: Trisha Biggar
No Rating, 92 minutes