In this tense thriller, a man begins to suspect his neighbors are not what they appear to be -- and their secrets could be deadly. Michael Faraday (played by Jeff Bridges) is a college professor whose wife, an FBI agent, was killed in the line of duty by members of an extremist right-wing terrorist group, leaving him to raise their nine-year-old son by himself. One day, he saves the life of a boy he sees on the street. The child turns out to be the son of his new neighbors, Oliver and Cheryl Lang (Tim Robbins and Joan Cusack). Michael soon becomes friendly with the grateful Langs, who seem as cheerfully bland as anyone could hope from denizens of suburbia. But the better Michael gets to know Oliver, the more he becomes convinced that something isn't quite right; Oliver seems almost too clean and perfect, and Michael begins to notice that small details in Oliver's stories don't quite add up. The question is whether Michael's well-founded paranoia about the radical right is getting the better of him, or are the Langs up to something a lot more sinister than their cheerful smiles and manicured lawn would suggest? Ehren Kruger's screenplay for Arlington Road won the Motion Picture Academy's Nicholl Fellowship prize in 1996; the film was the second directorial effort for Mark Pellington, who debuted with Going All the Way.
by Mark Deming synopsis