The Perfumier review – a nonsensical and boring addition to an intriguing concept

September 22, 2022
Lori C. 0
Movie Reviews, Netflix, Streaming Service


The Perfumier took a fascinating concept and turned it into a snooze fest. Its runtime is filled with too much telling, not much showing, and a plot thinner than Sunny’s ability to experience scents. 

This review of the Netflix film The Perfumier does not contain spoilers.

Written and directed by Nils Willbrandt, The Perfumier features Emilia Schüle as Sunny, a German police detective who lacks a sense of smell, and Ludwig Simon as Dorian, a perfume maker obsessed with creating the scent of love. Their two stories become connected most unusually. The film is very loosely based on a popular German novel by author Patrick Süskind. And when I say “loosely,” I mean the plot has almost nothing to do with the book apart from featuring a killer obsessed with scents. If you’re looking to watch a good adaptation of the book, you’re better off streaming the period thriller Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (2006), starring Alan Rickman. There’s even an episode of Criminal Minds that did a better job at capturing the essence of Süskind’s novel. Pun intended.

The movie starts with the protagonist narrating. Then it continues with more of her narration. At the 20-minute mark, I began to wonder if the narration would continue for the entirety of the film. It did. When the protagonist wasn’t narrating, she was reading internet articles out loud. Somehow, she was also omniscient. Sunny’s constant voice-over was so heavily overused that it almost felt like watching a documentary where the actors were cast to loosely recreate the events. It’s as if Nils Willbrandt heard of the quintessential film school motto of “show, not tell” and decided to be a rebel. 

Aside from the constant narration, there’s not much actually happening on screen. The viewer never gets a chance to meet these characters or get to know them. Nobody seems to care about the murders. Every scene is quickly followed by Sunny’s overbearing narration. And despite the monumental amount of explanation on the part of our protagonist, in the end, the plot makes very little sense. Stylistically, it’s a mess. It tries too hard to be artistic with its use of close-ups and neon colors but comes off as pretentious. 

The Perfumier took an intriguing concept and made it boring. Understanding the protagonist’s actions is almost impossible, all the other characters are one-dimensional, some characters are completely pointless to the plot and the story doesn’t really amount to anything. There’s a lot of telling, very little showing and overall, a lackluster attempt at making a thriller. 

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