A YOUNG MAN WITH HIGH POTENTIAL **** Germany 2019 Dir: Linus de Paoli. 85 mins
Adam lld Rohweder is outstanding in the title role as an agoraphobic, highly intelligent student who lives in a “rat cage” apartment and has the appearance and manner of a harmless geek. Something is up from the moment we meet him because a private eye (Amanda Plummer) shows up at his home, probing the murder of a Polish student (Paulina Galazka). Flashbacks reveal his initial meeting with the sweet, smart young woman as they become partners on a paper about digital traces. He gets the wrong idea about their burgeoning friendship and, when she spurs his advances, the embarrassment ends in a very dark place. Rohweder’s empathetic performance constantly shifts our loyalties: it’s both shocking and heart-breaking to watch this mild-mannered guy become uncharacteristically aggressive to his regular cam girl having had his paranoia about being “unfuckable” seemingly confirmed. The movie’s obvious debt to PSYCHO is confirmed by an agonising, superbly directed scene of corpse disposal in which the audience cannot help but root for the Norman Bates figure at the centre…though it is preceded by an even more harrowing and protracted date-rape scenario. De Paoli’s film (shot in English) juggles Hitchcockian gallows humour, absorbing character study and discreet gruesomeness with consummate skill. Impressively understated despite the potential to slip into exploitation mode and rarely leaving the confines of Rohweder’s apartment, this is a witty, sweat-inducingly intense story of 21st century loneliness and alienation.
Review by Steven West