Eye For Film >> Movies >> Heaven Scent (2023) Film Review
Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode
The potential psychological powers of perfume have been the stuff of fantastic stories for centuries, and continue to wield an influence of their own to this day. We may know now that human pheromones don’t work that way, but most of us also recognise that the potential biochemical synthesis is only just beginning to be seriously explored and that we really don’t know what methods of manipulation might be possible. Would such a perfume be abused? Could it be used for good? Might it, in the end, be unethical either way, because it would take away the freedom to choose?
These are the big questions asked in Heaven Scent, a small Irish film which badly needs some magic of its own. In that absence of that, what it does have to offer is a scratch n’ sniff card, one of those cute little cinematic gimmicks which resurfaces every decade or so in a slightly different form. It’s a thing naturally suited to a festival crowd, especially one including children. Michael McNulty’s playful mystery screened as part of the 2023 Belfast Film Festival, one of a small number of fresh home-grown products aimed at a friendly audience. It’s unlikely to reach far beyond that.
The premise is a solid one, and a source of natural comedy. Easygoing retiree Bill Kent (Robert McGregor) is astounded when he wins an office building in a poker game. This is not the kind of stake he usually plays for – but of course there’s a catch. When the papers are signed, he discovers that he will have to acquire a lot of money in a very small amount of time if he is to avoid ending up poorer than before. The office used to be the headquarters of a private detective agency, and so naturally, as he sits there brooding about what to do next, in walks a dame, and we just know there’s going to be trouble.
The idea – small time detective, big conspiracy, all played out in downbeat Irish fashion – has some mileage. Unfortunately this is a distinctly amateur effort. It’s cobbled together so haphazardly that one finds oneself wanting to hand out a badge for effort, because it’s not easy to make a feature film from nothing, yet whilst the team behind it ought to feel proud of themselves, it’s not very watchable. Some of the acting is terrible and a lot of the humour falls flat. There’s a notable lack of research underlying some of the incidents on which the plot turns, and the sets and costumes are barely functional.
It does have its moments. A few of the jokes hit home. McGregor isn’t the world’s greatest actor but he manages to give it a gentle charm. It’s ambitious in a tongue-in-cheek way, as illustrated by a psychedelic sequence and a missing scene card which appears at the climax. One hopes that those involved will try again, if only because they have evidently enjoyed themselves, but this doesn’t smell of success.Reviewed on: 15 Nov 2023