The Only Living Boy In New York is a puzzling film to describe. It’s not that it’s bad or nonsensical, in a similar way with mother! and the complications that arose from avoiding plot spoilers, but it’s simply that the synopsis for this film (please don’t make me type out the title again) doesn’t sound overly enticing. We follow a young book lover named Thomas Webb (Callum Turner), who lives in a small apartment in New York. His father (Pierce Brosnan) disapproves of his lifestyle. His mother (Cynthia Nixon) has a history with illnesses that Thomas fears may return. And his best friend Mimi (Kiersey Clemons) doesn’t love him in the same way that he loves her. But that’s when a mysterious stranger enters his life and provides a necessary shake up.
It is, on the one hand, Pretentious First World Problems: The Movie, but there are deeper meanings in the works that really resonated with me as an audience member. The film plays out as a quirky Woody Allen-wannabe rip off, which does lead to the more uninteresting plot elements, but through its familiarity, it begins to find its way in the world and develop into something worthy of its own merit. Much like its central character, who I was unable to connect with for the film’s first half, The Only Living Blah Blah Blah doesn’t hit as hard as it should. But give it time, stick with it, and there’s genius behind the madness.
Allan Loeb’s screenplay is short and sweet, often working to a strong degree, but constantly falling into the Collateral Beauty trap, a film Loeb also wrote. It’s far better than that abysmal, painful piece of trash, but there’s similar thematics and manipulative plot elements that ring through to this film. Marc Webb brings his usual grace and humanity to the directing, but certain script elements are unable to be saved. Kate Beckinsale’s character proves problematic and underdeveloped, even if she does provide the strongest elements of drama, romance and conflict throughout.
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