The first matter that has to be addressed about Everything Must Go (EMG) is that it's a Will Ferrell film that isn't a comedy. Invariably it will be compared to 'Stranger Than Fiction', which was Ferrell's first 'straight' role. 'Stranger Than Fiction' (STF) had the quirk of Emma Thompson's author character controlling Ferrell's destiny through her writing, which meant the film came down more on the comedy side of the comedy-drama (or dramedy if you're that way inclined) divide. However it is alcoholism that drives Ferrell in EMG. This should give you some indication that you won't be sitting through a laugh a minute film.

It is worth stating up front that Ferrell not only takes well to a serious role, he excels in it. He plays Nick Halsey, a high flying salesman who by the start of the film is being fired for his out of control alcoholism and an incident in Denver that is specifically mentioned but not elaborated on. He returns home to find his wife gone, the locks changed and all his belongings on the front lawn. Nick's journey starts on his front lawn and most of it takes place there. It's his fear of his belongings being stolen that brings him into contact with the other two major characters in the film.

Samantha is his young pregnant neighbour charmingly played by Rebecca Hall ('Vicky Christina Barcelona') and there is Kenny, a young boy who Nick pays to look after his belongings as he goes to the shops to buy increasingly worrying amounts of beer. The 'threat' comes in the form of Nick's former Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor Detective Frank Garcia (Michael Peña) stopping him getting arrested and giving him the lifeline of the ruse of holding a yard sale on his front lawn. This will only buy him 5 days before he is moved on by the police. In these 5 days Nick lives a kind of 'Rear Window' existence, bound to his lawn by his belongings and learning more about his neighbours than he had done in years of living next to them.

The film truly draws you in. Ferrell displays a depth and quality of acting that I really didn't expect and that was somewhat lacking from STF. The role is played with subtlety; Nick comes across as an authentic alcoholic. He plays the condition as someone who needs a drink to sleep and function normally, as opposed to an over the top, shouting-at-neighbourhood-dogs kind of drunkard. There is a real sense of sympathy for him and his condition which peaks when his money runs out and he politely but desperately asks people for a spare beer as they come out of a liquor store. The facial expressions and body language that Ferrell uses to expert effect to elicit laughter in his other roles are toned down and used to give the impression of someone who knows he's hurting himself and others but just can't help it.

Kenny could have been a real sore point in the film; a young African-American boy who is bullied at school befriending an older father figure that he lacks in his own life. Thankfully the part is played with a lovely naivety and vulnerability that makes the character feel complete, as opposed to what could have turned in to a schmaltzy “You're the father I never had” type affair. Kenny never seems too wise for his years and never strays into being the pedagogue of the film. Christopher Jordan Wallace, the son of Christopher Notorious BIG Wallace, puts in a surprisingly mature performance that makes me want to see more of him in the future.

The film's setting and cinematography lend an air of mundanity to the film. I suppose this is to contrast the idea of normality that is just a veneer for the secrets that Nick finds out his neighbours are hiding. The setting is somewhat ancillary to the film and this is shown by the consistent use of short focus shots which ensure that the characters are at the forefront of the film both visually and narratively.

Despite initial preconceptions, the characters are fully fleshed out and the ending is heart-warming without sprinkling the cheddar all over it. The flaws of the film are few; Nick's boss in particular is a very one dimensional, over the top 'Horrible Boss' type and seems a little too evil and not in keeping with the rest of the film. Some may find the Delilah (Laura Dern) interlude a bit tacked on, but it has enough depth that rescues it from just feeling like a happy ending aid.

The film relies on its actors to make the audience interested and care about how the fairly low-key narrative plays out and thanks to good performances all round you will find yourself leaving with a smile on your face. Will Ferrell may have just added a whole new aspect to his career.