DIRECTOR: DANIEL BRÜHL
CAST: DANIEL BRÜHL, PETER KURTH, RIKE ECKERMANN
RELEASE OCTOBER 2021
RT: 92 MINS
IN CINEMAS/CURZON HOME CINEMA
REVIEW by KATHLEEN BONDAR
Daniel (played by director Daniel Bruhl) is a successful Marvel actor, recognisable whichever way he turns. He’s generous with signing autographs and happy to pose for selfies with excitable fans. He lives in a gentrified part of former East Berlin, with hipster views of tenement rooftops from his high-spec apartment. Life is hectic for Daniel. He has scripts to memorise and agents forever calling. His consultant wife is super busy saving lives. His little son is in good hands with an effusive Spanish nanny. Of course, Daniel speaks several languages, German, Spanish and English with impeccable accents in the vernacular.
One morning, before his flight to LA, he takes time out to enjoy a coffee or a couple of shots at his local bar where old fellas nurse tankards of beer (alone) and the aging barmaid (Rike Eckermann) pouts her heavily pencilled lips. Here he meets Bruno (Peter Kurth), an old-timer. Funnily enough, Daniel now lives where Bruno’s old dad once lived, before the developers bought it for a song. The aging, heavy-set Bruno works in a call centre. He deals with lost or stolen bank cards. He has access to his neighbours’ accounts: what they are spending; where they spend and what they spend it on. Bruno has some home truths in store for Daniel. Truths about Daniel’s nanny, Daniel’s wife and Daniel.
Next Door feels like an off-West End play adapted to film - it looks like costs are minimal. Sure, there are a few walk-on parts and the occasional street scene to contextualise events and alleviate the claustrophobia. But basically, this is a one set, two characters film.
To some extent writer/director Bruhl overdoes Daniel’s misdemeanours as if to excuse Bruno’s bullying. Righteous, working-class anger trumps celebrity privilege.
At first it is easy to laugh at Daniel, the benevolent (egotistical) superstar who indulges ordinary people. The viewer is lulled into siding with Bruno, the wise old geezer. But the tables keep turning in Next Door. Should we side with Bruno? Is he actually an embittered old stalker out to avenge the cosmopolitan elite?
Thing is, both characters and their conversations (or more to the point, their arguments) are gripping. Daniel Bruhl and Peter Kurth equal the other as Germany’s finest of actors batting sardonic wit back and forth at each other without skipping a beat in a gloves-off battle of new and old Berliners. It’s a game worth watching to the last serve.