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By Alan Ng | January 5, 2020

To say that Instinct is a controversial film would be an understatement (or it’s me misreading today’s culture). Director Halina Reijn dives right into the issue of rehabilitation and #MeToo in her erotic thriller, Instinct. It may trigger some (fair warning), but at the same time, spark some interesting conversation about some very tough issues. Either way, Instinct has something interesting to say and its worth hearing out.

Today, the Netherlands believes whole-heartedly in the concept of rehabilitation for its criminals—even its worst. In Instinct, the criminal in question is Idris (Marwan Zenzari), an incredibly violent serial rapist on the verge of being released into the public because the prison board deems him rehabilitated. To ensure successful integration, renowned therapist Nicoline (Carice van Houten) is brought in as his new therapist. She is skeptical about Idris in spite of his glowing recommendations.

“…an incredibly violent serial rapist on the verge of being released into the public because the prison board deems him rehabilitated.”

Nicoline, whether intentional or not, schemes to keep Idris in the system. During their individual therapy sessions, Idris and Nicoline have a very tense back-and-forth as witnessed by staffer Marieke (Marie-Mae van Zuilen). Nicoline’s first question to Idris is, “why are you here?” The idea is to find out how Idris explains his crimes and how he looks at it today as a reformed prisoner. Idris is guarded because he knows regardless of how he answers, Nicoline will find a reason to keep him locked up. Here starts the psychological game of cat-and-mouse between the two.

As part of his return to society, Idris is allowed to take a four-hour leave away from the prison without an escort. When asked where he would go, Idris says the beach. Later, Nicoline shows up at that location. She is now starting down a very dark path as she makes Idris jealous by openly flirting with one of the fellow therapists. Why she is doing this is not clear, not only to us but to herself as well. We soon discover that both Idris and Nicoline are holding back secrets as a forbidden affair begins.

Instinct (2020)

Directed: Halina Reijn

Written: Esther Gerritsen, Halina Reijn

Starring: Carice van Houten, Marwan Kenzari, Marie-Mae van Zuilen, etc.

Movie score: 8/10

Instinct Image

"…It makes the point that both leads are the villains..."

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