Sarah (Nicole Brydon Bloom) is overjoyed when she is accepted into an apartment complex in Hollywood after an open day. The only problem is they don’t accept pets and Sarah has to smuggle her cat Giles in and keep him hidden. It’s a stroke of luck for the wanabee fashion designer as things haven’t been going to well, finding life in the city challenging and having a difficult relationship with her parents.

The new place is smart and the neighbours especially Brian (Giles Matthey) very welcoming: a true community with the residents pulling for each other. She seems to fit in straight away, all smiles and attending parties. Even her work life improves meeting the assertive Lisa (Celeste Sully) with whom she forms a rapport.

But then she starts to receive threatening letters about her cat, and then there’s creepy one-eyed Lester (Clayton Hoff) who gives her a book. Also unbalancing the utopia is long term resident Edie (Susan Davis) who is dependent on drugs and acting very strangely. And then there are noises at night that gradually increase in volume and duration becoming unbearable. And then one night it all comes to a head and Sarah finds that there’s another face to the community.

It doesn’t take too long to work out where Apartment 1BR (in the US 1BR) is going as it has many of the tropes of smiley faced communities hiding dark secrets with the music of composer Ronen Landa effectively underscoring the tempo of the film. So the viewer, is in familiar territory, goes along with it and although there are some surprises and nasty bits, the main focus is soon on Sarah, her eventual fate, strength of will and character.

David Marmor’s writing and directorial debut is assured on the big topics he tackles: indoctrination for peace of mind leading to a supposedly better society while maintaining the sort of surveillance and control systems that the STASI would have found impressive. You can also draw on the principles of freewill and that even that philosophy must have an underlying guidance system it just depends on what is acceptable to the individual.

It’s a fact that some people are content to live within very controlled social systems as there is a perception of calm, comfort and security. For that they are prepared to (or unwittingly) compromise many of their own freedoms and values. The residents of the apartments appear to have made their choice, though in truth there isn’t much of one.

Apartment 1BR is available from 8 June on a number of digital platforms.