EIFF 2010: The Man Next Door review

An intriguing premise doesn't quite pan out as Carl had hoped with The Man Next Door...

Starting with a bang, The Man Next Door is about just that. A successful designer has a massive and wonderfully designed studio apartment for a house, in which he lives with his wife and daughter. He lives a happy life, that is, until the next door neighbour decides to create a window which looks straight into his home.

The film starts with a two shot split right down the middle, one dark and the other light. We see a sledgehammer smashing into the dark side over and over again relentlessly. Soon the white side starts to crumble, and soon the exterior of the wall falls off. Before long, bricks start falling through, and we see the idea of the film come to light.

Leonardo (Rafael Spregelburd) isn’t happy about this, and so he shouts over to the workman to stop. This starts a long back and forth between the two owners of the homes, that Leonardo is not really that comfortable having. Which brings us to the man next door in question.

Victor (Daniel Aráoz) shows himself up to be rude, arrogant and with a terrifying stare that would knock any sensible man sideways. However, all this is masked under a ‘nice guy’ attitude and at first the viewer may not know what to make of him.

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However, it is Victor who makes this film worthwhile. Where Spregelburd is actually quite boring in his central role, Aráoz brings his character a massive depth, which is no surprise, considering his character is possibly one of the best creations in cinema in years. It’s only unfortunate that the setting in which he resides isn’t as good as he is. Apart from his performance in this film, only the cinematography is worth noting.

Obviously, it helps if the majority of the story is told within the confines of a lovely house, but the framing of shots and the use of the space is intelligent and shows a keen eye for beauty. It’s nice too that there a few scenes in the film which only use one very long shot, but, unfortunately, this balances itself out by sometimes making this shot as boring as possible.

For instance, the chats between the two men happen between windows, and the shot of behind Leonardo’s head is used for each of these scenes, of which there are many. Never do we see the conversation from the other side, which I feel is unfairly unrepresentative of one character over another. We get to see every reaction that Victor has, which is important, as he plays a lot of it in facial shifts from one expression to the next, but we never get to see Victor’s reaction. This is unfortunate as the viewer never gets the chance to connect with the main character in these scenes, which is crucial in seeing his side of the argument.

In the end, The Man Next Door is a fundamentally flawed film, with the direction choices ruining most of what should have been an entertaining feature. The choices made seem stark and contrast with the feelings that the film is attempting to convey, which is one that is almost force-fed by the narrative.

However, the film does give us Victor, who is one of the greatest character creations I have seen in any form of visual entertainment in a long time, which just makes the film’s downsides feel all the more horrible.

I am awarding this film one star, the second star is for Victor and the brilliant actor who plays him, Daniel Aráoz.

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2 out of 5