Good Neighbors (2011)
Directed by Jacob Tierney
Good Neighbors is one of those quirky little thrillers that immediately throws you off kilter from the start and keeps the tension simmering ever so slightly until the third act erupts in an intense showdown amongst friends that challenges their alliances. Unfortunately, Good Neighbors ends up challenging the viewer’s patience as well as the payoff in the film doesn’t quite nail it in the “compelling resolution” department and left me feeling more than a little underwhelmed at its conclusion.
Good Neighbors begins in the autumn of 1995, when we are introduced to Victor (Baruchel), who is returning home to Montreal's Notre-Dame-de-Grace neighborhood after spending time working abroad in China. Being a little too overeager, Victor attempts to make friends in his new building, but Louise (Hampshire), the cautious, cat-loving waitress, and Spencer (Speedman), the embittered, wheelchair-bound recluse, aren’t exactly looking for new friends.
However, beyond just seeing how these three characters become intertwined into each other’s lives are two bigger events- Quebec is about to vote on a referendum where the French-speaking population of the country are looking to secede from the rest of the English-speaking nation and there is a serial killer stalking the streets targeting young women, a story that both Louise and Spencer morbidly follow with a peculiar enthusiasm. However, Victor is too kindhearted to see how jaded his neighbors are, and when secrets are uncovered among the trio, a game of cat and mouse begins; and by the last five minutes of the film, it’s hard to tell just who is trustworthy and who’s not. However, when everything gets resolved, I couldn’t help but wish Tierney and company had kicked up the tension a notch or two because I felt pretty indifferent with how everything worked out between the film’s leads.
Both the referendum vote and a killer lurking in the streets set an uneasy mood for Good Neighbors, but somehow Tierney slightly misfires in his attempt to tap into those dramatic themes to deliver a powerhouse of a story. The trio of characters we follow throughout the film end up being very unlikable, which is a damn shame when you have this level of talent assembled, and the twists and turns that Tierney cooks up for the audience actually end up playing out rather formulaically.
If you’re looking for a gorefest of a slasher flick, then Good Neighbors is not for you. The film falls more into the dramatic thriller category of genre films so there is very little blood and guts to be had. That being said, though, the two kills in the flick are both pretty visceral and shocking and will most definitely be of an offensive nature to those who may be a bit sensitive to sexually-charged violence. Don’t worry; we’re not talking A Serbian Film here or anything, but things do get a little disturbing in Good Neighbors for a short while.
Despite establishing a solid tension at the beginning, Good Neighbors ends up being a rather unremarkable dramatic thriller that squanders any potential for greatness it had with a bland and uninspired finale. The “twist” Tierney works into the story ends up being the film’s biggest enemy, making Good Neighbors a rather mediocre affair at best. It’s really too bad because it had so much potential with a talented filmmaker at the helm and a talented cast as well.
2 1/2 out of 5