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Review | ‘Welcome to the Neighborhood’ has its issues, but it’s worth it for the harrowing journey



Ryan Murphy is one of the most prolific directors of our time, and throughout his career he brought to life several productions that became quite famous and won several awards – such as the “American Horror Story” anthologies and AmericanCrime. Story’. , the drama ‘The Normal Heart’ and the series ‘Hollywood’ and ‘Ratched’, to name a few. Now, after overseeing the beloved miniseries “Dahmer: An American Cannibal,” Murphy is returning to his Netflix collaboration for “Welcome to the Neighborhood.”

Consisting of seven episodes, the series is based on a chilling true story and, in the adaptation, brings a narrative that follows the Brannock family. After getting tired of the atrocious life in screaming New York, they decide to move to suburban New Jersey, to a town called Westfield. After finding a beautiful home in an idyllic community, the family decides to start a new life away from noise, pollution and the excruciating feeling that something bad might happen to give their children their best and to themselves. This is where we meet the conventional dynamic of Dean (Bobby Cannavale) and Nora Brannock (Naomi Watts). Dean poses as the patriarch and thinks he should be responsible for providing for his loved ones; Nora, meanwhile, is a visual artist whose career has it all, especially with several galleries wanting to exhibit her work. Along with the two, we have young Ellie (Isabel Gravitt) and Carter (Luke David Blumm), the couple’s children trying to adjust to the new reality.

As one can imagine (without even reading the synopsis of the miniseries), the supposed paradise is quickly deconstructed into a kind of nightmare that destroys the Brannocks day after day. After all, during the few hours they’re in the new house, they’re already arguing with strange neighbors who don’t seem to know the meaning of private property; but the first turning point comes when Dean receives a mysterious typed letter from someone who calls himself The Observer. The post talks about the greed of a wealthy family that doesn’t respect the history of the house and shouldn’t be there, even threatening them in an unspoken way. Slowly, madness descends on the Brannocks, leading them to embark on a dangerous quest to uncover the secrets that lurk in the hallways and what awaits them in a grim future.

The plot is not the most original, not even inserted into a real context. It doesn’t matter though, given that the result is enjoyable, despite the hurdles and technical issues, as well as some dialogue that could be better tweaked. The idea here, it seems, is to let a great cast carry the story and surrender body and soul to a thriller that sounds supernatural but is, in fact, an exploration of the inordinate human ambition and inability to accept loss. Murphy, responsible for directing the pilot episode and most of the scripts, manages to build a coherent internal logic, even if some sequences serve more as filler than aid to the plot flow.

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For the first time, the director and his creative team do not embark on exaggerated aesthetic explorations, confining themselves to the dramatic formulas of television – whether in the play of shadows and lights, or in the counter-intuitive dialogue. running. The “Innovations”, if they can be called that, come in a sober and brash color palette that enhances the melancholy of brown, beige and white, both in the metropolitan perimeter of New York and in the ephemeral protection of Westfield , stating that the protagonists could not escape what awaited them no matter where they were. As the grand finale approaches, it’s remarkable how Murphy says with all his breath that the terror experienced by the Brannocks is far from over – and it comes to fruition when no one finds the identity of the Watcher. .

While Watts and Cannavale do an amazing job, it’s the supporting cast that steals the show. We have Jennifer Coolidge coming off a well-deserved Emmy win and playing Karen, a real estate agent who tricks Nora into selling the house just so she can get her hands on her “dream house”; Christopher McDonald plays Rourke Chamberland, a local police chief who passes himself off as a “good guy” but is a man full of problems that prevent him from separating the personal from the professional; and Noma Dumezweni, easily the best performance and aspect of the job, as private detective Theodora Birch, a shrewd, pure woman who does anything to help the Brannocks.

“Welcome to the Neighborhood” may not be free of amateurish slips, but it’s not a waste of time. The biggest misconception is the frustration viewers feel at the lack of completeness and detail that only serves to show that the dysfunctional setup of the protagonist family will continue no matter how hard they try to get back to the original. normality. Despite this, the trip around the Brannocks is worth it and keeps us going (for better or worse).

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