Good Neighbours (2010)

Spencer and Louise live in an apartment block in French-speaking Canada, during a referendum in the mid 90′s. Spencer is handsome and glib but confined to a wheelchair and Louise is obsessed with her pet cats and the recent news stories that detail a local serial killer and his victims. When Victor moves into the building they both strike up reluctant, tentaive friendships with him, but does he have a sinister secret and is everything as it seems?

Good Neighbours is a cleverly crafted, darker than dark thriller that’s been criminally overlooked. The story is complicated without being convoluted, well acted and with a generous sprinkling of black humour throughout. Add a couple of cops who may not be as bumbling as they first seem, a nosy landlady and an angry neighbour who’s as loud as she is profane to the mix, and you’ve got a rather interesting cinematic stew.

In the grand tradition of Hitchcock, proceedings are understated and subdued and the film unfolds at a steady pace that some may even call slowburn. Some suspension of disbelief is required if you want to enjoy yourself here but unlike some negative reviewers, all I’ll say is that the period setting absolutely plays a part in the story and isn’t merely a stylistic choice.

Jacob Tierney‘s direction is fairly perfunctory, providing a solemn, snowy backdrop for the story. There’s no unnecessarily showy flair, but there’s also nothing bold or adventurous to speak of, it merely ‘is’.

Emily Hampshire as Louise is wonderful. She’s a cynical, cat obsessed, socially inept woman with a macabre streak who seems perfectly content with her lot in life. It’s a performance that’s completely stripped of any vanity or fear. Scott Speedman as the charismatic, disabled Spencer is her absolute equal. He’s sarcastic, intelligent and secretive and Speedman fills his characters shoes ably (so to speak!)

The only possible weak link of the three leads is Jay Baruchel whose usual jittery awkwardness occasionally feels forced and can wear pretty thin at times. He fits well within the dynamic of the central trio but his performance is the only one that doesn’t feel grounded and seems to exist in a heightened, exaggerated reality.

Good Neighbours is unlikely to find a wide audience but those who like their horror/thrillers dark, dreary and depressing but with a morbidly wry smile could do worse than to spend 100 minutes watching this. It’s enjoyably flawed, has a surprising re-watchability and it’s really nice to see Canada producing a refreshing alternative to the slew of bland Hollywood thrillers. Worth a watch.

Rating: ★★★★★★½☆☆☆

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