Everybody needs good neighbours, with a little understanding, you can find the perfect blend. Neighbours should be there for one another, that’s when good neighbours become good friends.
But what if they don’t? What if the neighbours you have are complete nightmares, who cause you nothing but grief?
For Spanish director Rodrigo Sorogoyen’s latest film, he examines the relationship between neighbours with very different backgrounds.
It’s always been a dream for Antoine (Denis Ménochet) to move somewhere rural and start a project, so that’s exactly what he does with his wife Olga (Marina), when they move from their native France to a small village in the Spanish countryside.
The idea is to renovate some local farm buildings, then give them back to the community, whilst they develop a small farm holding on the land.
Their arrival however is a bone of contention with their neighbours, brothers Xan (Luis Zahera) and Lorenzo (Diego Anido); there was an opportunity to make some money from the land when some developers wanted to plant some wind turbines on it. However, when Antoine and Olga put a block on it, this frustrated the brothers no end, causing bad blood between them.
So much so that Xan outwardly bullied Antoine in public, making a point of calling him ‘Frenchy’ whenever he saw him.
At first Antoine didn’t put much thought to it, but when he and Olga started getting harassed on their property, he begins to think that the situation is far serious than he thought. And he isn’t wrong.
There are feint echoes of Claude Berri’s classic 1986 film Jean de Florette in Sorogoyen’s film, with a dispute about land blowing up out of all proportions.
It’s not just an issue of land however, as the director also probes the issue of xenophobia, with the locals none too happy with the arrival of ‘foreigners’ to their neck of the woods. And the character Xan doesn’t hide it either, using it much like a bullying technique whenever he sees Antoine in public.
Considering the calm, serene locale, in a pretty, mountainous region of Spain, much like Jean de Florette, it feels an unlikely place for conflict. But Sorogoyen slowly builds the tension up, to the point that it’s almost palpable, creating a genuine fear for both Antoine and his wife. It’s something the director has proven with his film The Candidate, albeit very different, and yet still providing a terrific sense of growing tension throughout.
Sorogoyen proves once again that whatever the material, he has the craft and talent to make compelling, intriguing cinema from it.