"Perfect Sense" may increase appreciation for the selfless medical responders and researchers of "Contagion," battling on even as a plague thins their ranks. As the loss of smell gradually spreads, Susan and her colleagues wonder what's causing the affliction, and they must be doing something with those caged monkeys, mice and rabbits, but mainly hope it goes away.
So does Michael, since olfactory failure is not a good thing for the restaurant business. "If it smells fishy, it's not fresh," he tells an assistant about a sea bass. "It should smell of the sea." On the other hand, since one of Michael's dishes is "lobster haggis," perhaps smell is not really his thing.
And it's here that screenwriter Kim Fupz Aakeson makes her intentions clearer. Her narrator talks about what is really being lost by humans, the memories triggered by smell. "Cinnamon might remind you of your grandmother's apron... without smell, an ocean of past images disappears."
Then, there are workarounds. At first, the restaurant is empty. After the effects, though, customers start to come back. Sous chef James (Ewen Bremner) and the rest of the kitchen staff load up on spices, sweets, sours. A street performer plucks her violin and offers her auditors leaves to rub while she declaims about the smell of the sky. In their diffident way, Susan and Michael become involved.
McGregor and Green are an attractive couple physically, and neither, especially Green, is shy. She remains comfortable with her Bond Girl architecture, and here adds a guarded prettiness to her usual brisk physicality. McGregor is well put together without the better living through chemistry that distorts many Hollywood bodies.
But neither of their characters are especially nice, or galvanizing, people. The romance of "Perfect Sense" is a very reluctant fairy tale, one of people doing their limited best as things get worse.
For the loss of smell is only a harbinger. It is followed by other waves of powerful emotion _ rage, joy _ presaging more physical losses. Some come suddenly, some are hinted at by distant disasters, fires, riots that gradually come creeping. And then, the next worse thing arrives, and the survivors make adjustments. Restaurant reviews talk of temperature, texture and color.
"Flour and fat, that's all we need to survive," Michael's restaurant owner (Denis Lawson) tells him.
The narrator talks of "days as we know them, the world as we imagine it." That formulation does not simply suggest impending catastrophe, though, it is the way we regularly go through life. Both the world and our imaginations are running on, eluding and chasing, never in sync, especially when we think they are.
"Perfect Sense" is neither a perfect romance nor a perfect apocalypse. But it is a perfectly inventive take on both, with imaginations bounding on even as worldly understanding diminishes.