Magazine article Screen International

'The Only Living Boy in New York': Review

Magazine article Screen International

'The Only Living Boy in New York': Review

Article excerpt

Callum Turner leads an all-star feature about an aimless young man who strikes up an affair with his father’s mistress

Dir: Marc Webb. US. 2017. 88mins

Straining to exude a literary air of urbane sophistication, The Only Living Boy In New York becomes instead a rather undistinguished coming-of-age tale with a provocative premise it can’t quite execute. Director Marc Webb’s drama about an aimless young man who begins sleeping with his father’s mistress has its share of nice, small moments, not to mention a cast headed by Callum Turner and Kate Beckinsale that’s attuned to the story’s novella-like intimacy. And yet, the whole endeavour ends up feeling fussy and clever rather than incisive and nuanced - especially when a late twist seriously jeopardises plausibility.

The film mistakes terse, showy dialogue for real insight into these struggling souls

Only Living Boy arrives in US theatres on August 11, catering to adult audiences familiar with Beckinsale and co-stars Pierce Brosnan, Jeff Bridges and Cynthia Nixon. The film’s elite New York environs, mixed with adultery and family dysfunction, could appeal, although muted reviews may not help.

Turner plays Thomas, a college graduate who doesn’t know what he wants out of life. Smitten with his platonic friend Mimi (Kiersey Clemons), who doesn’t share his romantic feelings, Thomas has always been distant from his successful, judgmental publisher father (Brosnan). His complicated feelings only become thornier when he discovers his dad has been sleeping with Johanna (Beckinsale), a freelance editor behind his beloved mother’s (Nixon) back.

Written by Allan Loeb, Only Living Boy establishes Thomas’ alienation from his privileged upbringing and then surprises us when his angry confrontation of Johanna results in a spark between them, leading to a clandestine sexual relationship. Webb (Gifted) intentionally rushes this seemingly mismatched pair into bed, letting their decision feel impetuous and mysterious - perhaps even to themselves.

Beckinsale skilfully navigates Johanna’s mercurial whims, portraying her as a sensitive, intelligent woman who’s a bit adrift and craving new experiences, such as romancing this naïve younger man. For his part, rising star Turner (Queen & Country, Assassin’s Creed) does a decent job of playing Thomas as restless and resentful, the simmering contempt he feels toward Johanna unexpectedly morphing into lust. Is he sleeping with her only because she’s alluring - or is it some twisted act of vengeance against his father for betraying his mother? …

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