The Neighbor Review
The Neighbor is a 2018 thriller about a middle-aged man in a stagnant marriage who finds his life upended when an attractive young woman and her seemingly abusive husband move in next door.
One of the hardest working character actors in the business, William Fichtner has quietly been in some of the most successful films in history, from Independence Day, to Armageddon, to Crash, to The Dark Knight and many more. Yet, I’m willing to bet you don’t even know who he is. It’s too bad because he’s a real talent, one of those faces you see and feel good about whenever he’s on screen, knowing that no matter the quality of the movie, you’re gonna get something worthy from him. So it is with Aaron Harvey‘s The Neighbor, a film he makes entirely his own.
Mike Prentice (Fichtner) is a quiet man, working at home as a copywriter, often in a darkened upstairs room. He’s married to Lisa (Jean Louisa Kelly), a school teacher, and things have cooled over their long years together. However, things take a turn when new neighbors move in next door. Scott (Michael Rosenbaum) and Jenna (Jessica McNamee) are a young couple, he a pushy sports car salesman and she a charming, plunky girl that rather quickly stirs some long dormant passions in Mike. Problem is, it appears Scott’s got a violent streak in him and is abusing Jenna, something that brings Mike into the fold, befriending her and forcing him to make a tough choice.
That description might seem kind of familiar, and to be sure, The Neighbor – with a dreadfully generic title – does visit a few standards, especially as it heads to its end. However, this is much more a character study than a straight up thriller, at least for the most part, centering on a very strong performance from Fichtner, who does with Mike something he’s never quite done before. Mike is worn down, lonely and empty, and Fichtner portrays this by moving Mike about as if propelled by unseen tethers, his arms almost always at their sides, his back straight, and his glossy eyes and haggard voice drained by monotony. When he speaks, you feel the ache. It’s a powerful turn by an actor who truly does surprising things.
However, this is not a traditional big budget sexual thriller, keeping far more grounded than most in the genre. Harvey, who co-wrote the screenplay with Richard Byard, plays this slow and methodical, avoiding most of the landmarks we’re familiar with, instead, allowing Mike to become a wrecked man with a growing obsession. Things are not always as they seem and while many a movie has played these same chords, at least Fichtner offers a twist on the tune. You never quite know what he’s capable of and that soon poisons the corners as things ever so slowly crumble for Mike.
The Neighbor is a dark film, keeping as close to reality as it can, and while its pace and momentum are purposefully measured, it is nonetheless a gripping experience. Audiences raised on speedy stories and hyperbolic action might give this a quick pass, but for those who appreciate the long slow burn and especially a sublimely nuanced performance, there is much that will make this well worth a look.
The Neighbor Review
Movie description: THE NEIGHBOR IS A 2018 THRILLER ABOUT A MIDDLE-AGED MAN IN A STAGNANT MARRIAGE WHO FINDS HIS LIFE UPENDED WHEN AN ATTRACTIVE YOUNG WOMAN AND HER SEEMINGLY ABUSIVE HUSBAND MOVE IN NEXT DOOR.
Director(s): Aaron Harvey
Actor(s): William Fichtner, Jessica McNamee, Jean Louisa Kelly