Neighbours are fickle little creatures. Doesn’t matter who they are or what they do, there is always one obnoxious one with three kids, a massive trampoline and a dog which barks hearing Suede. Next Door is not about that, but as these words were typed, Suede was on, and so too were the howls of a mutt. We cannot silence what we cannot reach and in the dying days of one May afternoon, the sound of a dog rallying against a self-titled debut from one of Britain’s finest, is not the way to live. Nor is Next Door a construct of ideal living. It may appear to be the case for Daniel Brühl, a man who shows flickers of criticism for the placid superhero stock of which he appeared earlier in his career. It is not the case, though, as his self-titled role finds.
What he finds in front of and behind the camera on Next Door is an interesting perception of perfection. He lives the life of a self-titled, stuck-up thespian and works it over and over with great grace. His directing style is neutered, and sporadic signs of excellence are shown throughout this percussion-clad soundtrack and the Whiplash intensity thrown around the opening moments. For all its repossessed artisan horrors, there is a sense of gentrification lingering in those opening moments, expanded on further and better when Bruno (Peter Kurth) is introduced. All Next Door needs is a bit of a setup and away it goes, into a deep dive into the backrooms of a nice-looking pub.
Even in passing, the obvious touches and fears are picked up on. Financial ruin, desperate tensions between betrayer and betrayed, the power struggle enlisted by two actors with tense and standoff-ish charm is a delight. Kurth and Brühl are made for that, two dominant figureheads locking horns and treating their verbal spats with intensity and charm. Regular breaks occur, not just to advance the story but to give viewers a moment to collect the information given to them by both parties, and it works nicely. Confrontations of a long and winding variety, utilising the bar and Brühl’s fine direction a tremendous benefit here. Artists do not have control over what they do for one another, or themselves. Financial safety at the expense of creative regression. Next Door finds that line nicely.
In doing so, Brühl has the opportunity to critique and confirm his feelings about his own career. It never feels that way, but parts must, to some degree, linger on as his own thoughts as he details the gentrification of the soul and of the literal areas around him. As viewers grow and age, their surroundings change among them, superstores cropping up where memories once were, Next Door is an opportunity to rally against that feeling. Overcome the beast of classism. Next Door has great moments to it, tense stand-offs that find a fine line between preaching and argumentative. Where the line is drawn is important. For Brühl, who creates a lengthy conversation on social inequality and the worries for the future of culture and country, finds the balance.