Glasgow on Film recalls, on a sunny October Sunday in 2009, returning a kilt to a hire shop in Glasgow city centre and then taking a detour to the Merchant City where filming was reportedly underway. On Wilson Street there was debris strewn everywhere – discarded luggage, waste paper and abandonded vehicles – and amidst all of this Scottish actor Ewan McGregor was wandering around.
The production being filmed was Perfect Sense, released in 2011 to critical acclaim (winning Best British Feature at the Edinburgh International Film Festival that year).
McGregor is joined in Perfect Sense by Eva Green – mentioned previously as one of “Glasgow’s Global Visitors” – and a supporting cast that includes his Trainspotting (another film with Glasgow links) co-star Ewen Bremner, his real life uncle Denis Lawson, Stephen Dillane and Connie Nielsen. The film follows the blossoming romance between McGregor’s chef Michael and Green’s epidemiologist Susan – the complication in this particular love story though is the epidemic that is sweeping the globe and robbing everybody of their senses: smell, taste, hearing and sight.
It is a unique film in a number of ways: most films involving viruses and epidemics follow a similar route, but in Perfect Sense there are no zombies, no screaming primates, no gunfire – instead, with the exception of some moments of high emotion that occur just before the loss of a sense, we see people in Glasgow and beyond doing their best to adapt to the sudden and shocking developments that appear to be affecting all human life; in the practically silent ending to the film – as Michael and Susan embrace just as they lose the power of sight – the idea of six billion people no longer able to hear or see hits the viewer as a more terrifying prospect than most of the “end of civilisation” scenarios that have been played out on screen before.
As for Glasgow’s role in Perfect Sense, this is one of the finest examples of the city being portrayed in film as a normal working and living city – just as the feature avoids many epidemic movie tropes, it presents Glasgow without relying on excessive grit or caricatures. The film also makes good use of locations around the city centre and west end.