EIFF 2011: Perfect Sense Movie Review 0 11

After directing the likes of Hallam Foe and Young Adam, director David Mackenzie returns with an ambitious film about a global apocalypse, seen mostly through the eyes of a budding couple, played by Ewan McGregor (here reteaming with Mackenzie) and Eva Green.

On an ordinary day reports start to flood in from all over the world of people losing their sense of smell. The government can’t seem to locate the cause (Water supply? Toxin? Environmental issue? No one seems to know.) and despite telling everyone that the “virus” is not contagious they can’t be certain. More and more people get infected and eventual the world starts to return to at least some form of normality. However, just as the world has gotten used to a life without smell another sense is lost… and then another and then another…

With a big help from Max Richter’s wonderfully bleak score, Mackenzie manages very skilfully to convey a simultaneous sense (no pun intended) of both hopefulness and hopelessness. That may sound strange but just in the same way as films such as John Hillcoat’s The Road or Alfonso Cuarón’s Children of Men, Perfect Sense gets you to feel fear that everything isn’t going to be all right but at a same time a strong hope that it might.

The film almost takes the form of different stages i.e. broken up into different segments each time the world loses another one of their senses. And it manages to do something quite unexpectedly powerful and poignant – it makes you appreciate the senses you have and probably take for granted every single day. Just as the loss of taste, for instance, occurs the feeling of appreciation for the remaining senses is just as strong as the regret of losing the senses that have already been lost.

Throughout the film there is a voiceover that could have been unnecessary and pretentious but it helps to add to the notion that we are looking in on a worldwide apocalypse of sorts without necessarily being part of it. Having said that, however, Mackenzie does employ some fairly simple techniques to often put you in the shoes of the people this loss of sense is happening to. This amplified as the film progresses, particularly when showing (possible SPOILER ahead) the effect of losing hearing and eventually sight.

At the certain of this worldwide pandemic is McGregor and Green, who clearly have a lot of good chemistry and are responsible for some of the films more intimate moments. The couple are simultaneously our literal link to experiencing the pandemic and a way for the film to successfully explore ideas of what it means to truly connect with somebody. This aspect is perhaps a bit on the heavy-handed side but the overall premise is over-the-top in itself so it really works well.

Perfect Sense (and what a perfect title that is) isn’t necessarily trying to comment on and/or offer a solution to the many problems the world faces; it never once blames the pandemic on any one thing (more a case of “suspect everything”). It merely utilises what isn’t an entirely unbelievable worldwide disease to show how the world would come together in their tragedy, trying their best to hold on to what humanity and normalcy that they can in the most dire of circumstances. Haunting.

Previous ArticleNext Article
I'm a freelance film reviewer and blogger with over 10 years of experience writing for various different reputable online and print publications. In addition to my running, editing and writing for Thoughts On Film, I am also the film critic for The National, the newspaper that supports an independent Scotland, covering the weekly film releases, film festivals and film-related features. I have a passion for all types of cinema, and have a particular love for foreign language film, especially South Korean and Japanese cinema. Favourite films include The Big Lebowski, Pulp Fiction and 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Man on a Ledge Movie Review 0 11

Man on a Ledge movie review

With a title as blunt and, quite frankly, stupid as Asger Leth’s Man on a Ledge, it’s right not to expect all that much. I wasn’t looking for an awards-worthy thriller with great acting or insanely witty dialogue. But I also wasn’t expecting it to mess up its quite brilliantly simple premise.

The film at least starts off well enough, delivering a premise that while outlandish is not totally unbelievable. We have a mysterious man (Sam Worthington) who appears to want to kill himself by jumping off a building. However, as we can easily guess, there’s more to the story than meets the eye.

We have a man… on a ledge… who is he? why does he want to kill himself? Why does he appear to be stalling for time?… The trouble with Man on a Ledge is it starts well, at a competently intelligent level but as the thread is pulled more and more and the real story behind the false front is revealed it becomes increasingly ridiculous until any semblance of believability or relatability is thrown out the window (so to speak…). And the way it attempts to weasel its way into being an emotional story with a purpose makes it all the worse.

The film fails to merge together two duel, related storylines into an enjoyable complete package. The stuff with Worthington on the ledge, with Elizabeth Banks as the negotiator, is far more interesting and engaging than the Ocean’s Eleven wannabe antics happening elsewhere.

A cast of talented actors including Worthington, Banks, Jamie Bell, Ed Harris, Anthony Mackie, Kyra Sedgwick and Titus Welliver is practically wasted here on half-hearted characterization, preposterous plot twists and trite, cliché-ridden character motivations. All this distracts from the already overly convoluted plot to the point where it’s hard to really care about anyone, even the guy who’s threatening to jump. Like the spectators below, I almost wished he would just do it and get it over with!

Minute-by-minute you can practically see the film’s IQ drop lower and lower until it finally descends into one of the most absurd, nonsensical endings to hit the screen in quite some time. And to add insult to injury it ultimately ties everything up far too conveniently for its own good, fumbling and stumbling on its way there, leaving an aftertaste of smugness in spite of its stupidity.

As a whole Man on a Ledge is not entirely devoid of entertainment as it at least keeps you guessing, even if one answer is as ridiculous as the last. Those willing to completely shut their brain off might get some dumb enjoyment out of it. But when you set everything up with an intriguing premise like this it’s all the more disappointing to see it turn out as dumb as you feared.

[youtube id=”FOBiNI-JbNM” width=”600″ height=”350″]

This review was previously published at Blog Critics.

Martha Marcy May Marlene Movie Review 0 9

Martha Marcy May Marlene is a difficult film, both in its subject matter and how the viewer is asked to take in the events. But even in its more ambiguous moments, the film is undoubtedly powerful and haunting, helped largely by the lead performance of exceptional newcomer Elizabeth Olsen.

The film tells the story of Martha (Olsen), a young woman who escapes from a cult she was part of in the Catskill Mountains, led by the mysterious Patrick (John Hawkes). After escaping she is picked up and stays with her sister, Lucy (Sarah Paulson), and in flashbacks we see her experiences as part of the cult while she tries to return to a normal life.

This type of ambiguous storytelling can often backfire, creating confusion and frustration where fascination should go. Fortunately, for the most part anyway, Martha Marcy May Marlene handles that ambiguity very well, making for an experience that allows you to both to fill in the blanks and read what we do get presented with in any number of ways.

The film is anchored together, and perhaps even raised beyond what it otherwise would have been, by the stunning performance of newcomer Olsen. She is sister of famous twins Mary-Kate and Ashley… but don’t let that put you off! Olsen is a real find of an actress, giving an attention-grabbing debut performance (tragically overlooked by the Oscars) as a girl tormented and confused by her past experiences. It really is pretty difficult to take your eyes off her every time she’s on-screen, not just because of her looks but her vulnerable yet strangely enigmatic presence.

While clearly the stand out, Olsen isn’t the only performance of note here. The incomparable Hawkes, finally getting some of the spotlight and recognition he has deserved for years, is a terrifying character here, his weird and subtle charm making his actions and warped attitude all the more frightening. The likes of Brady Corbet and Sarah Paulson also give impressive performances.

This is tough subject matter we’re dealing with here and writer/director Sean Durkin certainly doesn’t pull any punches. There are indeed scenes which some viewers may find very disturbing – namely the cult leader’s “treatment” of the female members – but these scenes are there for a purpose and not just there for the sake of being provocative.

Nevertheless Martha Marcy is provocative but in the best of ways. Emulating the work of such directors as Michael Haneke (his Funny Games films in particular) and Lynne Ramsay, Durkin creates an uncomfortable and unsettling atmosphere, making for what could very well be described as a horror film. In the same fashion as Ramsay’s We Need To Talk About Kevin, there might not be jump-scares or lots of gore but a chilling sense of fear and dread runs throughout the whole thing nonetheless.

Martha Marcy May Marlene doesn’t offer any easy answers, it’s not interested in spelling everything out for or making it easy to understand all the themes it’s aiming to get across. Through intelligent means the film allows us to read the events in a way that makes sense to us, and a terrifically vague ending is the ultimate embodiment of that. Quietly powerful, haunting and often downright disturbing, this is an impressively bold directorial debut with a mesmerizing performance at its centre.

[youtube id=”0_k3wCsOgqk” width=”600″ height=”350″]

This review was previously published at Blog Critics.