email print share on Facebook share on Twitter share on reddit pin on Pinterest

GIJÓN 2019

TV series review: El vecino

by 

- Nacho Vigalondo brings his brand of humour to this Netflix original; starring Quim Gutiérrez and Clara Lago, it’s an adaptation of the comic book series by Santiago García and Pepo Pérez

TV series review: El vecino
Quim Gutiérrez in El vecino

Par for the course at international festivals these days, the Gijón International Film Festival garnished its 57th edition with another audiovisual dispatch from the mother ship we all know as Netflix. The Asturian festival, under the direction of Alejandro Díaz Castaño (see interview) decided to treat the guests of a gala presided over by the peerless Rodrigo Cuevas (sharing the mantle of master of ceremonies with screenwriter and journalist Henar Álvarez) to two episodes of El vecino (see news), directed by local boy (ish), Cantabria-born Nacho Vigalondo. After the show, Vigalondo and a handful of cast and crew — including stars Clara Lago, Quim Gutiérrez, Catalina Sopelana and Adrián Pino — opened the floor to the audience, some of whom had been heard guffawing loudly through the 60-minute screening (each episode lasts 25 minutes) of this TV comedy tailor-made for anyone who’s a sucker for a good algorithm.

(The article continues below - Commercial information)

The rest of the room, however, sat in silence (with much phone scrolling in evidence) as we got our first taste of this new series, premiering here in the welcoming ambience of this coastal city amid serious hype — nothing new for Netflix, or those familiar with Vigalondo’s other capers. Does El vecino live up to the entertainment value delivered by other works by this Oscar-nominated director (for short film 7:35 in the Morning)? That’ll be a no.

The premise of El vecino is vaguely reminiscent of Extraterrestrial [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Nacho Vigalondo
film profile
]
: once again, we have an everyday world disrupted by an unusual occurrence that touches the lives of normal people — people like you or me, got it? The laziness and, frankly, moral repugnance of some of the characters harks back to Timecrimes [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Alejandro Miranda
interview: Nacho Vigalondo
film profile
]
and Colossal [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Nacho Vigalondo
film profile
]
, but this time Vigalondo fails to pull off the same feats of shock and daring. While you could be forgiven for assuming that what we have here is a kind of regurgitated Superlopez [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
, the series is no Spanish remake of a North American comic universe, with arch-enemies and gutsy rescue missions. Instead, it sticks to the modest day-to-day life (rudely interrupted by the aforementioned and singularly supernatural event) of a man who finds himself adrift, startled and disorientated by the new responsibilities placed at his door.

During the post-screening discussion, held on Friday 15 November at Gijón’s Jovellanos theatre, Quim Gutiérrez nailed his character, Javier, when he described him as a “shitty kind of superhero”, with Vigalondo hastily adding that “heroes are flawless, but Javier instils no confidence whatsoever.” El vecino plonks this calamitous central character in a sad-looking neighbourhood, where Javier lives and all of the action takes place, sprinkling on a liberal dose of Peter Panism (as might have been predicted). There’s a fleeting and very amusing appearance by Jorge Sanz, a catchy song by Mecano and a smattering of jokes about the new applications of the collaborative economy. It’s all designed to give some oomph to a show that comes across as rather soulless, its humour ringing hollow: a flight of fancy that never really takes off.

El vecino is a series in ten parts, brought to us by showrunners Carlos de Pando and Sara Antuña, created by Miguel Esteban and Raúl Navarro. Based on the comic series of the same name, written by Santiago García and Pepo Pérez, it was produced by Nahikari Ipiña and Eneko Gutiérrez for Zeta Studios. It is due be launched on Netflix on 31 December 2019.

(The article continues below - Commercial information)

(Translated from Spanish)

Did you enjoy reading this article? Please subscribe to our newsletter to receive more stories like this directly in your inbox.