DO NOT DISTURB **** USA 2022 Dir: John Ainslie. 92 mins
Writer-director John Ainslie, whose most high profile credit to date was the screenplay for the inventive JACK BROOKS: MONSTER SLAYER (2007), cleverly subverts expectations with DO NOT DISTURB, which starts out as a potentially typical psycho-drama, evolves into an excruciating (in all the right ways) “toxic relationship” piece and culminates with a feeding frenzy.
Canadian newlyweds Kimberly Laferriere and Rogan Christopher (both terrific in tough, emotionally raw roles) are staying at an Adults Only resort for their Miami honeymoon, befriending another, slightly odd couple (Janet Porter, Christian McKenna) along the way. We quickly see the cracks in their relationship: he’s not ready for the baby she has long wanted and mostly just wants to have fun; she’s disappointed at the lack of an ocean view, wants to “grow up” and is bitter that he poo-pooed her business plans. Existing insecurities and personal grudges are amplified after they get wasted with the other couple and meet an anxious, tripping stranger on the beach who hands over a stash of synthetic cocaine and Peyote.
“Kinky?! I ate part of your shoulder!” Ainslie cleverly balances the attractive (but sparsely used) Florida location shooting with a growing sense of claustrophobia as time distorts (or disappears) and we are increasingly stuck in an ever more hostile hotel room with the fracturing couple. There’s an intense, authentic discomfort in the portrayal of the microaggressions, bitter exchanges and festering resentment between the newly minted husband and wife – but also a marvellous sense of humour, from the sarcastic onscreen inter-titles (“The night after the day you thought was yesterday”) to surprising moments of full-blown farce, slapstick and Hitchcockian black humour. The movie pulls off some stark tonal shifts with real aplomb: uncomfortable sex scenes and nightmarish psychedelic interludes alternate with feral brutality and moments that are both incredibly upsetting and hilarious at the same time: note the scene in which a character sobs uncontrollably while cradling the severed leg of their significant other.
Review by Steven West