Good Neighbors

Written by John Blahnik on . Posted in Arts & Film, Posts.

Good Neighbors, Jacob
Tierney’s third feature, is set in 1995 Montreal. Nationalists clamor for
Quebec separation, but the real tension is created by a man who separates
something different: women. A serial killer is slashing throats around
Notre-Dame-de-Grace, and the residents of Madame Gauthier’s (Micheline Lanctot)
apartment complex are worried. Cat-loving Louise (Emily Hampshire) and
wheelchair-bound Spencer (Scott Speedman) live a floor apart and gather nightly
to discuss the latest murders. Could it be Victor (Jay Baruchel), that
suspicious new tenant moving in a couch? “A sleeper, actually, not too heavy
but pretty unwieldy, used to be my mother’s couch, and watch the sides,
sentimental value and all…”

No, certainly not.

Nearly all the action is confined to the apartment, and as
the months pass and the body count rises, the camera hovers around those three
and you get the impression that it must be Spencer. Just look at those
aggressive kitchen knife skills. And his new fish look like sharks! And the way
he knew that one unreported detail… Could the mysterious car accident not have
paralyzed him after all?

Thankfully Tierney saves the film from becoming a prosaic
whodunit by casually revealing the murder’s identity 40 minutes in, forcing Good
to succeed as all films should,
through character and style. Victor is in love with Louise and at the height of
the scare will walk her home whether she likes it or not. His delusional love
is half-comic, half-sad and produces the film’s best lines. “I told the police
about our engagement,” he says to her bewilderment. “Oh, shit. I guess I should
have told you too.”

Spencer may or may not also be in love with Louise, but a
recent bereavement has left him cold and clinical. An aesthete capable of
Batemanesque mania, he’s at his best cooking a gourmet dinner to Chopin while
awkward Victor wonders about Louise. “She’s probably playing with her pussy,”
Spencer says with a homicidal smile. Victor chokes. “Her cats, Vic. She’s
obsessed with them.”

And the puerile pun is actually quite telling. Movies have
taught us to trust characters who love animals, but Louise’s love for cats is
so strong it becomes sociopathic; she’s in fact Spencer’s emotional double.
Just as he’s retreated from the world to enact a series of power fantasies,
she’s abandoned life in favor of animals. And the result is no less gruesome.

The film’s climax involves Victor and Spencer setting up
opposing plans to frame the serial killer using Louise’s help, and Tierney cuts
between real time and their past discussions with such technical mastery that
we only know Louise will look out for one character: Balthazar, an attractive
Siamese. Blending suspense and pleasurable misanthropy this jet-black comedy is
ultimately very satisfying.