The Only Boy Living in New York


US, 2017.  Starring Callum Turner, Jeff Bridges, Kate Beckinsale, Pierce Brosnan, Cynthia Nixon, Kiersy Clemons, Bill Camp, Wallace Shawn, Debbie Mazar, Tate Donovan. Directed by Marc Webb. 89 minutes. Rated M (Coarse language and sexual references).

Innocent or naive? Quite a significant question that audiences will raise in getting to know this only boy living in New York City. He is 25 but the title is boy. And is he innocent or naive? Certainly awkward, gawky, not knowing the ways of the world but having to learn them. And, in what ways is he living?

There is a lot of voice-over in the film, welcome because it is spoken by Jeff Bridges who plays the next-door neighbour to the boy, tells his story, writes it – substituting for the boy’s own father, listening, counselling, a kind of father confessor as well a psychiatrist.

The boy’s actual father is a millionaire in the publishing business, an interesting character study from Pierce Brosnan. The boy’s mother is quite neurotic with a charm of her own, played by Cynthia Nixon. Their marriage is brittle and is on the verge of breaking, another woman.

The boy, whose name is Thomas, is played very effectively by Callum Turner (who, it turns out, was born in London). Actually, so was the other main character in the film, Johanna, a book editor, in complicated relationships with the father and the son, played by Kate Beckinsale. The other central character is Mimi, a friend more than girlfriend for Thomas (Kiersey Clemons).

It is surprising, with these complex characters, how much material is on-screen in just under 90 minutes, keeping audience attention, listening to dialogue which is well-written, often quite arresting and thoughtful. (The screenplay was written by Alan Loeb who has done quite a number of genre films as well as 2016’s somewhat pretentious Collateral Beauty – which means that the screenplay is quite a surprise.)

The voice-over has quite a lot to say about New York City and speculations about the soul of the city, the various trends, the shifting community, the art world, the drug addicts, the changes in neighbourhoods – which would make it interesting for anyone who has spent some time in New York City. One of the key sequences occurs at a Jewish wedding, a most elaborate event, with an unexpected philosophical speech by Bill camp as Uncle Buster. Not sure whether most of the audience will retain the extensive content of the speech.

There are some surprises in the screenplay and some twists that may or may not have been anticipated which gives something of a different perspective on some of the characters and their behaviour.

The title comes from a song by Paul Simon, sung by Simon and Garfunkel and incorporated into the screenplay towards the end of the film.

Roadshow.                         Released 12th October

Peter Malone MSC is an Associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting.

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