Neighbouring Sounds (O Som Ao Redor) (15)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner22/03/2013

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 131 mins

Impressively directed, atmospheric Brazilian drama with impeccable sound design, strong performances and a number of arresting moments, but there's a frustrating lack of plot and the film can't quite sustain its lengthy running time.

What's it all about?
Written and directed by former film critic Kleber Mendonça Filho, Neighbouring Sounds (O Som Ao Redor, original title fans) is set in the coastal middle-class suburb of Recife in north-eastern Brazil. Seu Francisco (W.J. Solha) owns a large number of properties in the area and is persuaded to employ a private security firm headed by Clodoaldo (Irandhir Santos) after a number of local burglaries.

Meanwhile, Francisco's nephew Joao (Gustavo Jahn) suspects his delinquent cousin Dinho (Yuri Holanda) of stealing his girlfriend Sofia's (Irma Brown) car stereo and attempts to get him to confess, while young mother Bia (Maeve Jinkings) is driven to distraction by the constant barking of her neighbour's dog and comes up with several different schemes to get him to stop.

The Good
Mendonça is much more concerned with atmosphere than he is with plot; as the title suggests, the sound design is extremely impressive, with a variety of noises from the neighbourhood making themselves felt throughout the film, often to disconcerting effect. To that end, Mendonça creates a convincing portrait of a middle-class neighbourhood, but he also instils an inescapable feeling of dread, as if the threat of violence is just around the corner (the residents clearly feel it too, judging by the high security measures and their eagerness to hire Clodoaldo's firm).

The performances are strong throughout, particularly Gustavo Jahn and Maeve Jinkings (who both have the lion's share of the available screentime), though there's strong support from both Solha and Santos. In addition, Mendonça orchestrates a number of memorable scenes, such as a handful of dream sequences that wouldn't be out of place in a horror film; these contribute strongly to the constantly tense atmosphere.

The Bad
The main problem with the film is that there isn't quite enough plot to sustain the film's 131 minute running time, so the pacing slows to a crawl in the middle section and you start to wonder if anything is actually going to happen at all. In fact, there is a burst of plot-related activity towards the end, but by that point the film has almost worn out its welcome.

Worth seeing?
Neighbouring Sounds is powerfully atmospheric thanks to some impressive sound design work and Mendonça's assured direction, but the lack of plot is ultimately frustrating.

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Neighbouring Sounds (O Som Ao Redor) (15)
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Content updated: 18/12/2017 14:52

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