The Neighbors’ Window — 2020 Oscar Nominated Live Action Short Film Review

Alli (Maria Dizzia) and Jacob (Greg Keller) are married with two children with another on the way. They live a fairly humdrum life until they notice a young couple move into an adjacent building. The pair of 20-somethings (Juliana Canfield and Bret Lada) don’t like the idea of blinds, even when they have wild, free-spirited sex.

Alli and Jacob’s vantage point to this couple begins shifting their views on their own relationship, and these shifts continue even after they have their next child.

The first glaring issue with The Neighbors’ Window, the short film from Marshall Curry which has been nominated for an Academy Award for Best Live Action Short Film, is that these shifts seem largely inconsequential. The basic premise of the film reads like the conceit of a comedy sketch, but what is only initially played for laughs is meant to be more dramatic over time. But whatever insight we get into this New York family (and, later, their young neighbors) is superficial at best.

The short’s plot develops down a maudlin path toward a hackneyed end which reaches out with heavily emotional appeals. It is the sort of ending that could work effectively in a different story, but as it plays out in this one it reads cloying.

Curry’s short, compared to the other four Oscar nominees, is the least visually compelling. It is not poorly staged or shot, but it does not resonate with visual energy like the other shorts do. The Academy sees something in Curry’s work, however—he has been nominated four times in the past fifteen years. Perhaps the resurfacing of Street Fight, given this election cycle, has something to do with that, as Curry was also nominated last year for A Night in the Garden. That film’s depiction of a Nazi rally in America yields a politically potent image, but that it is nothing more than archival footage makes it hard for me to understand what made it Oscar-worthy.

With The Neighbors’ Window, there is at least some charm in the concept, but the execution is lackluster. The narrative is left unfulfilled, as it has to shift focus in order to reach its resolution. Maria Dizzia does a fairly good job with her performance, as does Juliana Canfield in the final scene, but the same can’t be said for Keller, who is playing it as if this was a comedy sketch.

 

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—Alex Brannan (@TheAlexBrannan)

 

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