The Only Living Boy In New York

Filed in Film by on August 19, 2017 0 Comments

Love and romance are complicated, all the more so when a father and a son are sleeping with the same woman. Marc Webb’s The Only Living Boy In New York, which opens in Canada on August 25, ventures into that fraught terrain, first on tip toes and then in full flight.

The film, set in New York City, is anchored by six intertwined characters — Thomas (Callum Turner), a university-age aspiring writer; Mimi (Kiersey Clemons), his friend with benefits; Ethan (Pierce Brosnan), Thomas’ dad, a book publisher; Johanna (Kate Beckinsale), Ethan’s mistress; Judith,(Cynthia Nixon), Thomas’ mother, and Julian (Jeff Bridges), a published novelist and Thomas’ muse.

It gets off to a rather melancholy start when Mimi informs Thomas that she’s leaving  the city to continue her studies in, of all places, Croatia. Thomas, recalling a wonderful night of sex with Mimi, is saddened by the news of her impending departure. Mimi, who already has a boyfriend, reminds him that a one-night stand can’t really be taken seriously. Clearly, she is not as attached to Thomas as he is to her.

Back at his grimy apartment building in the Lower East Side, Thomas runs into a stranger. For no apparent reason, Julian (Jeff Bridges), a grizzled novelist who favors cigars and alcohol, is intensely interested in engaging him in conversation. Julian is a fount of knowledge and wisdom and will be a recurrent presence in Thomas’ life. Indeed, he will become his muse.

One night, at a restaurant, Thomas sees his father with Johanna, a younger woman he doesn’t know. Judging by their body language, they’re romantically involved. Thomas proceeds to stalk her, hoping to break up their relationship. He’s concerned that his depressed mother won’t be able to handle the stress of her husband’s affair once she finds out about it.

In accordance with his plan, Thomas stops Johanna on a street and urges her to break off her liaison with his father. Thomas meets her again at a wedding, but this time the sparks fly. She behaves flirtatiously and, as we later learn, he’s possessed by a burning desire to make love to her. Eventually, they link up as lovers. These fleeting scenes are directed by Webb with a sense of  restraint and decorum.

Callum Turner and Kate Beckinsale

It isn’t clear at first why an intelligent woman like Johanna would exhibit such reckless behavior, especially in light of her perhaps disingenuous claim that she loves Ethan. But as the old adage goes, life sometimes can be stranger than fiction.

Odder still, Thomas discovers that a man he’s learned to like and appreciate was once his mother’s boyfriend.

These entangling relationships certainly spice up the storyline, but at around mid-point, the film coughs and sputters and loses its drive and intensity. The performances, however, are competent enough. Bridges is appealingly folksy, Turner is appropriately earnest and Beckinsale is ravishing in a low-key manner. Brosnan seems a tad too detached.

As might be expected, The Only Living Boy In New York evokes the Big Apple in fine fashion. Whether during the day or at night, New York is a pulsating city, a perfect backdrop for a movie about great expectations and bitter disappointments.

 

 

 

 

 

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