(director: David Mackenzie; screenwriter: Kim Fupz Aakeson; cinematographer: Giles Nuttgens; editor: Jake Roberts; music: Max Richter; cast: Katy Engels (Narrator (voice)), Ewan McGregor (Michael), Eva Green (Susan), Connie Nielsen (Jenny), Ewen Bremner (James), Stephen Dillane (Stephen Montgomery), Denis Lawson (Boss), Alastair Mackenzie (Virologist); Runtime: 92; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Gillian Berrie, Matte Grunert; Zentropa Entertainments; 2011-UK)
“Bizarre parable on love during a pandemic in modern-day Glasgow.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
David Mackenzie (“Hallam Foe”/”Young Adam”) directs this bizarre parable on love during a pandemic in modern-day Glasgow, when it seems possible the world is coming to an end. The unseen narrator (Katy Engels) builds up the story with mystery and compares the love story to an enlightening biblical one. It’s deftly written by Kim Fupz Aakeson, even if it’s baffling.
The sexy womanizer and artful chef, in an upscale gourmet restaurant, Michael (Ewan McGregor), is smitten with his neighbor, the chilly but brilliant epidemiologist Susan (Eva Green), in the middle of a pandemic. She’s recovering from a broken heart while working as part of a medical team studying in the lab the case of a man who has suddenly lost his sense of smell. He turns out to be one of the first Brits to become afflicted with this mysterious virus, named Severe Olfactory Syndrome (S.O.S), that threatens the world.
We observe that before losing their sense of smell, the viral victims have anxiety attacks over grief that brings about a strong connection between smell and memory. The next sense to collapse is taste, which is preceded by an animal-like intake of any food available at the time. When driven by hunger at the moment Susan will suddenly voraciously eat the flowers she possesses.
Michael adapts in his restaurant to this new normal by keying in on the dish’s texture and color. After several outbursts, Michael, reconnects with Susan. When the third wave of the disease hits, affecting hearing, chaos rules the world and rage becomes normal. Whereby Michael now attacks Susan.
The story operates on a metaphorical level, indicating there’s a global spiritual malaise afoot without pointing to religion or a God for answers. It strongly tells us to appreciate what you have before it’s too late and also that we better find someone to lean on because we all need one another.
The love story didn’t work for me as well as its spiritual messages did, as the self-centered duo didn’t seem like a good match. Its public service message seems to be we’re heading for a nightmarish future, so you better prepare for it now while you can. In other words, live in the moment. It wants us to believe that we can become emotionally sound again by handling our limitations and fighting through any catastrophes. But its argument was strained and filled with too much sentimentality to make much of an impact.
REVIEWED ON 11/29/2020 GRADE: B-