The Neighbor is effective at painting a simple portrait of a complex topic.

The Neighbor (2021) Review By Mark McPherson

Published on June 7, 2023

Rating 3.5 /5

The Neighbor is a short film by Graham Northrup about doubt. It’s a drama about contemplating how we interact with strangers right next door. Some neighborhoods don’t have as robust communities, where everybody remains more or less walled up in their beige homes, rarely interacting with their community. That certainly seems to be the case with the setting of this film, where it seems like human contact is a struggle.

The film centers around a young man who looks like he’s on his way to work. With a dapper suit ready for the workplace, he takes a call with his girlfriend while he strolls down the sidewalk. They talk about commitment and his considering taking their relationship to the next level. He seems to handle it well but in a manner that still feels uncertain.

His walk and talk are interrupted when he notices a woman screaming and some rustling window curtains coming from one of the houses. Concerned, he decides to investigate by ringing the bell. He speaks with the woman inside, who assures him she is just helping her husband rehearse for a play. It’s not a very convincing lie, but the man doesn’t push further. He tries to mind his business and accept her word at face value. That night, he’ll see and hear the domestic disturbance again, but this time refuses to ring the bell. Maybe they’re just rehearsing again. It’s a choice that he’ll soon come to regret.

There are a few ways to read this film. The first way is that it’s a cautionary tale of being aware of your community and reading the signs of domestic violence. If you don’t, there could be a case of murder that could’ve been prevented and a case of guilt that will never be shaken. It is a reminder of the consequences of inaction when somebody needs help. Another way to read this film is with its distancing of suburbia. The neighborhood the man walks through is desolate during the morning and evening. There is nobody else on the street or even in their yards. Nobody else is outside. It’s only he who witnesses the violence and chooses to do nothing. But that inaction may be the community he’s occupied for so long.

The staging also works well for this type of story. Far too often, films in a suburban setting appear way too clean and sterile to make for a convincing environment. But in this case, this neighborhood's prim and proper assembly bodes well for the story about uncomfortable distancing and the decay of safety within these bland houses. Even if this uneasy depiction of suburbia was unintentional, it’s still unique.

The Neighbor is effective at painting a simple portrait of a complex topic. It forces the viewer to question how much they would do in such a situation. What the film seems to stress is that the choices we make on a personal level could affect others as well. This could be misread in some ways, as though you must pop the question to crack a case or acting as though dead plants are a sign of a troubled household. For the most part, though, this is a compelling short film.

Written By

Mark McPherson

Written By

Mark McPherson

Mark has been a professional film critic for over five years and a film lover all his life.

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