Maryland (2015)

  • Time: 101 min
  • Genre: Drama | Thriller
  • Director: Alice Winocour
  • Cast: Matthias Schoenaerts, Diane Kruger, Paul Hamy


Back from Afghanistan, Vincent Loreau (Matthias Schoenaerts), a victim of post-traumatic stress disorder, is responsible for ensuring the safety of Jessie, the wife of a wealthy Lebanese businessman in his “Maryland” property. While he feels a strange fascination for the woman he must protect, Vincent is prone to anxiety and hallucinations. Despite the apparent tranquility on “Maryland”, Vincent perceives an external threat…

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  • Vincent, played by Matthias Schoenaerts, sits in his former bedroom, his bulk suffocating the space. The image suggests a man who doesn’t quite belong, whose adjustment to the homefront after time in the combat zone may not be an easy one.

    Vincent is a French Special Forces solder recently returned to his native South of France. A medical inspection at the film’s outset strongly infers that the homecoming may be a permanent one. It’s never made explicit, but it’s clear that he is suffering from some sort of PTSD; he uses medication and willpower to suppress and stabilise the bouts of paranoia, ringing headaches, and disorienting episodes. While the screenplay by director Alice Winocour and Jean-Stephane Bron makes a quiet but stinging commentary on a military system that fails to support the men it has broken and sent back out into the world, the psychological drama is housed in the form of a home invasion thriller.

    He and several of his military mates are hired to work as private security at a party being thrown at the eponymous Maryland estate, which is owned by a Lebanese businessman named Whalid (Percy Kemp). Vincent roams through the mansion, noting the security cameras, and keeping an eye out for anything amiss. During the party, he observes tension between Whalid and his beautiful blonde wife Jessie (Diane Kruger) and, later, several private conversations Whalid conducts with various businessmen. Something about these exchanges stokes Vincent’s suspicions that Whalid is dealing in illegal arms trading.

    Winocour establishes a remarkable and simmering suspense surrounding Vincent, whose watchfulness takes on a dangerous quality. One is never quite sure if there is a tangible threat or if he is simply imbuing menace into the mundanities. In this, the tale resembles Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window, Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blow-Up, and Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation, where the protagonists believe they bear witness to something underhanded but might be betrayed by their own faculties. A drive to the beach slowly strangles one of breath – is that car genuinely following them? Or is Vincent’s paranoia creeping out of control?

    Likewise, is Jessie’s discomfort around Vincent due to a growing attraction, irritation at having a stranger follow her around, or skepticism over his stability? There are many instances when Vincent may be the greatest danger to Jessie and her son, who are left alone with him while Whalid is on a business trip. There’s no denying Vincent is fascinated with her – gazing at her open back or her bare legs – and Winocour maintains the ambiguity of his intent even as she amplifies both their burgeoning bond and the external threats that converge upon the estate.

    Kruger shines as the elusive Jessie, but it is Schoenaerts who rightly dominates with his affecting portrayal as the troubled Vincent. Most of the film is beholding Vincent as he both coils and comes undone, and Schoenaerts displays why he is the go-to guy for sensitive thug roles. Wound and wounded, there’s an almost delicate destruction occurring within Vincent and the Belgian actor conveys it with a precision and subtlety that few of his peers can match.

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