The CompanyFeature films
NASTY NEIGHBOURS REVIEW
TOTAL FILMS 11/9/00 - STEPHEN APPLEBAUM

Thank God for Debbie Isitt. Just as it was looking like every young British film-maker had jumped on the tediously laddish Lock Stock bandwagon, along she comes with a deliciously vicious black comedy that restores your faith in homegrown cinema.

Fresh, energetic, and informed by a bright intelligence and a sick wit, Isitt's debut feature gleefully peels away the apparently cosy veneer of cul-de-sac life to reveal the anxiety, frustration, anger and jealousy festering away underneath. Margaret Thatcher said there was no such thing as society, but Isitt seems to be saying is that little has changed under Tony Blair's wobbly helmsmanship.

This might sound heavygoing, but Isitt generally makes her points with a light touch. She employs a vogueish mock-doc style that lends the action immediacy and edge; while her use of split screen really makes you feel the mounting tension between the couples, and heightens the excitement of an impromptu road race between Tomlinson and Daniels.

Isitt's willingness to allow her actors to improvise makes the men's face-to-face confrontations edgy and unpredictable, particularly during a horribly real back-garden brawl. Tomlinson is, of course, excellent. He humanises his interfering, narrow-minded Little Englander, making him as pitiable as he is monstrous. Meanwhile, over the fence, Daniels gives his vulgar neighbour an arrogant swagger that would annoy anyone.

All concerned, in fact, pull their weight in this low budget gem. Nasty Neighbours is a triumph of talent and imagination over limited funds and time. It will make you laugh, think and feel, and you cannot say that about many Brit flicks these days.

FINAL VERDICT:

Nasty Neighbours was adapted by Isitt from her own stage play, but you wouldn't know it. Her fresh visual style and free-wheeling direction leave no room for theatrical distractions, as Daniels and Tomlinson face-off among the pansies and shrubbery of suburbia. A new film-making talent has arrived.

Four stars