Thomas Webb (Callum Turner, channeling a young James Franco) has a big problem: he can’t tell the difference between true love and infatuation. A young wannabe writer dangling his heart around the streets of New York City between three women, Thomas gets a little help from his new neighbor, W.F. Gerald (a never better Jeff Bridges), who is as almost as mysterious as he is wise. Webb’s struggle reminds of the British loverboy Alfie’s movie ending line: “Love. What’s it all about?”
Director Marc Webb and screenwriter Allan Loeb craftily mix writer’s block, lover quarrels, and a coming of age tale into a smooth talking and moving 87 minute film called The Only Living Boy in New York. While self-indulgent at times and a little too smart for its own good, the film charms the worry out of its viewer and allows its majestic city to play a tiny role in the film. This is a film that a young Woody Allen could appreciate, because there are laughs and heartstring tugs happening here.
Thomas is ready to lend his entire heart to the affections of Mimi (Kiersey Clemons), who has more feelings for a trip to Croatia than a romance with our young protagonist. When Thomas finds out his father (Pierce Brosnan) is cheating on his mother (Cynthia Nixon) with a beautiful young copy editor (Kate Beckinsale), the rug on his already complicated life is yanked out from under him.
Does Thomas tell his mom-who has already experienced breakdowns due to depression and bipolar disorder-such horrible news–or does he confront the mistress himself, and get the whole story? Webb’s film moves in mysterious ways at times, so it’s a good thing Turner handles the slinky aspects of Thomas’ plight.
The kid loves one woman, feels loyal to another, and then develops an absolute crush on a third. It’s a good thing the always savvy speaking W.F. is around to drop pearls of wisdom on him when he needs a jumpstart.
Turner and Bridges carry the best scenes in the film. Two guys, one young and another much older, debating the how many layers of the onion you have to peel off in order to find love, before you risk being hurt. Whether it’s Thomas’ writing (which has been rejected by his publishing house boss father) or his troubles with women, Gerald is there to help.
While Brosnan, Beckinsale, and Nixon acquit themselves quite nicely, The Only Living Boy in New York doesn’t make such a huge dent without Bridges’ work. In a supporting role, he cuts an intriguing character from a haze of familiarity, which lends the big third act reveal a much needed dose of power.
That’s right, folks. Webb and Loeb’s late surge of a plot reveal really brought the film home. Without it, the few story threads are left dangling and great performances would be wasted. When you watch the trailer for The Only Living Boy in New York, it’s easy to just appreciate the slick features, fast talking, and roll with it for 90 minutes. The final twenty minutes adds a layer of gravitas to the story that took it to another level for me.
I’ll admit that I am a sucker for stories that throw troubled writers, the pursuit of love, and the bristled setting of New York into a blender. This film isn’t perfect by any means, but it makes you feel a lot and the acting is phenomenal.
2017 has been a year of unlikely heartfelt comedy/drama servings leaving unexpected dents in our hearts. Films like Band Aid, The Big Sick, and now The Only Living Boy in New York. You could string them together and create an anthology of heartbreak blues.
When I left Webb’s film, I wanted to spend more time with these characters. I wanted another chapter in a film that will most likely not get a sequel. You know a film is great when the immediate effect is palpable.
If you like well-written and extremely well acted films about the dire pursuit of love and all its miseries, check out The Only Living Boy in New York. Yes, Simon and Garfunkel’s song is appropriately used.