This week's Odeon Screen Unseen promised "something surprising, something stunning, something special" and it didn't really deliver on any of those things. That said, Alice Winocour's Disorder (entitled Maryland in its French release) is a compelling piece of cinema that kept me on the edge of my seat throughout.
Matthias Schoenaerts stars as Vincent, a soldier who fought in Afghanistan and has been put on leave for medical reasons: he has PTSD and some hearing loss. His friend Denis (Paul Hamy) gets him a security job at a fancy party at the luxurious Côte d'Azur mansion of a wealthy Lebanese businessman. Some suspicious characters attend the party, and Vincent overhears threatening behaviour and complex political machinations.
Later, Vincent returns to the estate ('Maryland') for another job: looking after the businessman's German wife Jessie (Diane Kruger) and their son Ali (Zaïd Errougui-Demonsant) while he is abroad. Jessie and Ali just want to relax and go to the beach, but Vincent feels as though they are constantly being threatened. He checks and rechecks the security cameras and almost runs the car off the road when he thinks he is being followed. Jessie isn't impressed and it is not clear to the audience how much of this threat is real and how much Vincent has imagined or overestimated.
Winocour makes the audience feel every modicum of Vincent's tension and conflict — aided by a strong performance from the ever-excellent Schoenaerts. Discordant noises and high-pitched feedback dominate the soundtrack, adding to the discomfort. Towards the end, the film becomes a little home-invasion-by-numbers and the ending is weaker than it should have been. If you are looking for a plot-heavy thriller, Disorder isn't it, but the film is a thoughtful, dark and meticulously executed character study. Kruger and the supporting cast are fine but it is really the Matthias Schoenaerts show as he allows us to gradually get to know the troubled, complicated Vincent. I have a feeling that this film might get a Hollywood remake that will probably end up making unexceptional Saturday-night-TV fodder, which would be a waste.
To clarify my point at the beginning of this review, Disorder wasn't surprising because I had scoured Twitter and the interwebs to try to establish which film would be shown; it wasn't stunning, although you could argue that Vincent is stunned; and it wasn't special for me because it wasn't quite up there with the outstanding films usually selected for Screen Unseen. Nonetheless, I have no complaints about the film choice.