Maria (Huppert) and her family run a coffee plantation in an unnamed African country in turmoil. Though she remains blindly determined to protect her home and livelihood, many other European expats, labeled "white material" by increasingly violent rebels, flee as the nation moves headlong towards civil war. Still Maria insists on staying through the picking season even as her local employees desert her, and her son (Duvauchelle) becomes unhinged. When Maria shelters a dying rebel hero (De Bankolé), she only puts herself in more danger. Soon enough, her self-delusion and denial will exact a terrible price.
Director Denis draws on her own upbringing in Africa as the daughter of a civil servant for this intense and absorbing exploration of emerging madness, all bound up in familial, racial, and national ties. The film makes the breathless, adrenaline-fueled feeling of impending violence palpable: we sense and shudder at the onset of chaos, both in the country Maria desperately clings to, and in her own increasingly disordered mind. Huppert's unnerving, shattering performance dominates this film; it's akin to watching someone sleepwalking on a high ledge. Don't miss this claustrophobic, nerve-jangling thriller.