Sometimes hybrids work and a thing of great beauty is born... and sometimes you end up with a mouse sporting an ear on its back. The latter is closer to what happens in this odd mix of science fiction and romance that never quite manages to gel despite several interesting ideas floating about on its surface. The setting is now, the place Glasgow, the main protagonist cheeky-chappy chef Michael (Ewan McGregor), who just happens to work in a restaurant that is situated next to the flat of glamourous epidemiologist Susan (Eva Green).

She has had a bad time at the hands of the sort of man that Michael represents so, of course, it isn't long before they get together - a move that is marred somewhat by the fact that the world's population has just been struck with a plague that begins to deprive people of their senses. First to go is smell, as people are overcome by uncontrollable grief before being able to scent no more. Soon taste will follow, heralded - in one of the film's most impressive sequences - by an attack of gluttony.

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But this is part of the film's problem. It is clear from the outset where the science aspect is going so despite some lovingly shot scenes Kim Fupz Aakeson's narrative is trapped within a predictability of its own making. As the plot trajectory is a given - and there is little attempt to really flesh out the science aside from some dollopy exposition - it falls to the central romance to come up with the goods. Despite the best efforts of McGregor and Green, who are both very watchable and make a convincing pair in bed, their love affair never feels particularly believable or deep enough to prop up the rest of the story.

The idea of mankind's eagerness to adapt and survive, rather than to tear one another limb from limb is a good one and gives David Mackenzie plenty of scope. His emphasis on the physicality of life is cleverly realised and he does a good job of evoking the 'invisible' senses of smell and taste. Scenes in Michael's kitchen, in particular, have an impressive vibrance and segments concerning the plague and people's reaction to it are well-handled. But the tonal shifts between the science and romance never quite come off, so that it feels as though we're watching two fractured narratives rather than each element speaking to the other. The whole enterprise is also encumbered by unecessary voice-over, which coupled with a raft of still photography at the film's outset gives it the unfortunate air of a Marks & Spencer's advert. Max Richter's syrupy and heavy score also serves to diminish emotion rather than heighten it. Leaves you with the sense of a good film that has been lost somewhere along the line.

Reviewed on: 08 Jun 2011
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A chef and an epidemiologist fall in love, just as the world is falling apart.
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Read more Perfect Sense reviews:

Jennie Kermode ****
Merlin Harries **


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