They need to order some drapes.
Everyone wants for more and often for that which they cannot have. That’s when our desire grows largest because we remember what was, regret what wasn’t, and lament how that which we have might never be enough. This goes beyond careers or finances or location. I’m talking about love, family, and joy. Is that a silly thought to have when you’re married with three kids and comfortably situated within a life together that you built with intent and purpose? Sure. But it’s also very human because contentment breeds fantasy. What we have becomes rote to the point where a distraction is necessary to cope. What if we were single? What if we didn’t have children? What if we were more attractive? Where did our lust go?
These are the questions facing Alli (Maria Dizzia) and Jacob (Greg Keller) in Marshall Curry‘s The Neighbors’ Window. And they’re natural questions to ask within a societal infrastructure hinged upon success and growth. The moment you find yourself digging in, complacency rears its head and achievement quickly turns to failure. We don’t allow ourselves to be comfortable when our minds tell us that comfort can always be improved. So when Alli and Jacob discover the young couple across the street stripping naked to have sex in front of drape-less windows, they can’t help but wish it were a mirror instead. They (Juliana Canfield and Bret Lada) don’t have screaming children, puke-stained clothes, or deteriorating bodies. They remind this couple about the divine gift that is youth.
Does that mean age isn’t, though? Does that mean someone couldn’t be looking through Alli and Jacob’s window with the same awe at what it is to be happily married with a family? This is the bane of privilege: an inability to see how good you have it compared to others because all you’re willing to see is what you lack. When the status quo is health, security, and happiness, those accomplishments become rendered as your new bottom. Alli and Jacob are therefore wondering how they could add these strangers’ capacity for sex, adventure, and independence to what they already have rather than acknowledging how reality often demands a trade off instead. All they know for sure is what they see and surfaces can hide so, so much.
Curry’s heavy-handed narrative propulsion to reveal this truth hits us hard emotionally regardless of it proving conveniently tragic and blatantly manipulative. The moment the cracks in Canfield and Keller’s lives arrive, we know what’s coming even if Alli can’t see the reckoning in store. That too is an example of her privilege and perhaps naiveté where her ability to escape youth is concerned. Because she survived her own to find love and motherhood doesn’t mean everyone else will. She can’t imagine what’s about to befall that other apartment because she has no internal reference point. It’s easy to thus imagine changing places when a future similar to hers is the guaranteed bare minimum. But it’s not. What Alli has is actually a future too many will never see.