The Only Living Boy in New York is a new movie from director Marc Webb. It tells the story of a recent college graduate named Thomas (Callum Turner) who discovers that his father Ethan (Pierce Brosnan) is having an affair with another woman named Johanna (Kate Beckinsale) and eventually becomes infatuated with her himself. I went into this movie hoping for the (500) Days of Summer Marc Webb and not the Amazing Spider-Man Marc Webb, and while it is more of the former, The Only Living Boy in New York still isn’t perfect.
The film is great on a technical level. Staurt Dryburgh brings New York to life with his gorgeous cinematography. Marc Webb knows how to elicit emotions through more sentimental moments without making them feel too corny and while no scene packs as much punch as the “Expectations vs Reality” sequence from (500) Days of Summer, the editing and direction are still top-notch, particularly during the scene where Thomas is “following” Johanna. The soundtrack is also worth mentioning since the songs fit in the context of the story such as the Simon and Garfunkel song that this film is named after and Bob Dylan’s “Vision of Johanna.”
The Only Living Boy in New York delivers on characters and performances for the most part. Callum Turner was fine as the main protagonist but he didn’t blow me away and definitely felt overshadowed next to his much more recognizable co-stars. I also didn’t feel much chemistry between him and Mimi (Kiersey Clemons), the girl he wants to become more than friends with. Jeff Bridges plays Thomas’s alcoholic writer neighbor W.F. and does well enough to make their shared scenes interesting at least. Johanna is arguably my favorite character because Kate Beckinsale is able to pull off the necessary charm and her scenes with Thomas were the more captivating to watch than his scenes with Mimi. Pierce Brosnan and Cynthia Nixon were fine as Thomas’s parents but their characters felt underutilized.
Writing is where the flaws of The Only Living Boy in New York begin to materialize. The story didn’t interest me until Thomas and Johanna formally meet. Similar to (500) Days of Summer, The Only Living Boy in New York heavily relies on narration but doesn’t use it as well. For example, the narrator actually explains details about a specific character while the camera closes-up on that character; this creative choice makes more sense in retrospect but it still feels unnecessary. Why couldn’t the film describe these characters through visuals? My guess is to keep the runtime under ninety minutes. The plot also takes a turn towards the end and my reaction wasn’t as shocked as “Okay. That was cool, I guess” and the film is somewhat self-indulgent in that respect.
Verdict: 3 out of 5
The Only Living Boy in New York isn’t a bad movie but it could’ve been so much better. The mediocre script keeps this well-acted and well-directed movie from being great. At least Marc Webb no longer has to deal with studio interference.