Updated: Jul 29, 2020
The Neighbors' Window tells the story of a mother who has grown frustrated with her husband and her daily routine. But her life is shaken up when two free-spirited twenty-somethings move in across the street and she discovers that she can see into their apartment.
In a way that many short films do not succeed in doing, writer/director Marshall Curry’s Academy Award-winning short film, deep dives into the lives of its characters with the kind of detail and nuance that feature film durations are usually needed to accomplish. Displaying an impressive efficiency in storytelling, we are able to travel a long and winding road that serves up love and conflict, envy and gratitude and so many poignant life moments and milestones that you will feel the weight of existing in the lives of these characters by the time the credits roll.
Part of the film’s genius and Curry’s approach to telling the story is a staunch adherence to the cardinal rule of ‘show, don’t tell’. The opening shots of a tired woman picking up food from the floor of an apartment covered in discarded toys tells us exactly where our main character Alli (Maria Dizzia) is in life without a word being uttered. This allows the dialogue to paint a relatable and recognisable picture and in the more intense moments to underscore the characters emotional peaks without clunky exposition doing the heavy narrative lifting.
This method is applied to the greatest extent as new neighbours move into the apartment across the street and immediately explode Alli and husband Jacob’s (Greg Keller) status quo. All of a sudden, they are staring into a carefree world of youth, parties, sex and no responsibilities. This is starkly contrasted with their reality of stressful days out with the kids and struggling to remain relevant in youth-dominated careers as they enter middle age. Alli’s vicarious journey through the titular neighbour’s window opens up a key component of the story told only through what she can see.
Great performances make this experience feel real and Curry’s ability to capture fleeting moments, from hanging Christmas decorations to night-time feeds all play in the background as we witness Alli’s growing obsession with her neighbours’ lives. Curry expertly creates a sense of Alli’s life being allowed to pass her by while she pines for someone else’s.
In terms of visuals, this film looks absolutely beautiful. Whether capturing the New York snow or eating breakfast at a messy table, director of photography Wolfgang Held knows how to guide our attention with light and focus, creating moments of characters being encapsulated in their own bubbles or highlighted even from great distances. No element of film craft is wasted in this film and just about every aspect serves the storytelling, right through to costume and production design.
There are exceptionally powerful character moments in this film. We are fully immersed in Alli and Jacob’s world due to Curry being able to visually communicate the trappings of the everyday. Once you are embedded in the world and the lives of the people who inhabit it, the story has to do very little to deliver those emotional sledgehammer moments (much like real life) including a final shot that will both lift and break your heart.
There are few films that we can confidently say that you will never forget once you have seen them and The Neighbors' Window is definitely one of those films.
Studio: Marshall Curry Productions | Year: 2019 | Genre: Drama | Duration: 20 Mins | Suitability: Mature
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