DRAMA; 1hr 37min
STARRING: Noomi Rapace, Joel Kinnaman, Chris Messina
Hush hush: Rapace and Kinnaman
Tidy-town America at the close of the 1950s is all straitlaced tranquillity in filmmaker Yuval Adler’s charged psychodrama. Fitting right in, Maja (Rapace) is the Romanian wife of a doctor (a buttoned-down Messina as Lewis) and the mother of their young son. She’s neat and pretty in her Waspy frocks and heels, her smoking habit the sole hint of still waters.
But trauma suppressed is still a second skin: during World War II, Maja and her sister were prisoners in a German camp and she’s now convinced that a man she spots out-and-about (Kinnaman) is the murderous Nazi guard who tormented and terrorised her 15 years ago. Bent on payback, she waylays and abducts him, enlisting a shocked Lewis — who knew nothing of this chapter in his wife’s past — to hold her quarry captive in their basement. The desperate man claims to be a Swiss native who worked as a clerk in Zurich throughout the war. His wife (Amy Seimetz) and two young children depend on him. If Maja and Lewis let him go, he promises to say nothing.
Well, but what else is he likely to promise? Your jury of one might be split on his ID, but Maja has no doubt that he is her monster. From the moment Maja hears the man whistling to his dog, the tension, within her and without, is a ceaseless needling sustained by Adler and co-writer Ryan Covington (and sharing some DNA with Roman Polanski’s 1994 film of Ariel Dorfman’s play Death and the Maiden).
Maja’s credibility is one urgent concern of the taut, economic screenplay. The other, equally pressing issue is how long she and Lewis can keep whoever the hell this person is incarcerated in their otherwise spotless home before everything falls apart. Or has irreparable damage already been done, to Maja 15 years ago and now to her and Lewis?
“I tried to make it go away so you would never have to know,” she tells Lewis about her past. Whether the unspeakable can ever be safely contained, no matter how tidy the town in which it lurks, is another question left hanging.