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It’s the bland leading the bland in The Boy Downstairs

Slushy film about wannabe writer who discovers her ex is living in the basement is gentle and inoffensive

08 June, 2018 — By Dan Carrier

Zosia Mamet and Matthew Shear in The Boy Downstairs

THE BOY DOWNSTAIRS
Directed by Sophie Brooks
Certificate 12a
☆☆☆

THIS film is inoffensive. So inoffensive it is hard to be too mean about it – but it is also bland, obvious, and aimed at a demographic I assume must exist but I’ve never met – namely, weak-minded, unsure, mumblecore-ians who are scared of their own shadows, let alone the emotions that define them.

Diana (Zosia Mamet) is a wannabe New York writer, a young woman who has artistic goals but before she can become Philippa Roth must work in a boutique selling wedding dresses to Bridezillas.

She has been living in London and when she returns to her home city, she gets a flat in a classic Brownstone apartment block.

To her horror/glee/surprise, she realises her former boyfriend Ben (Matthew Shear), whose heart she broke when she headed over the Atlantic, lives in the basement.

And that is that. Really – you can guess the rest.

We are given some flashback moments so we can get a handle on how their relationship developed, there is a supporting cast to jiggle them along the road of romance, and some stabs at off-beat one-liners.

But the overriding feeling this film gives is certainly not that love conquers all, or be true to your heart, or whatever slush they are hoping to pedal: nope, it’s a deep sense of relief not to be an angsty millennial, especially with a layer of New York fear scooped on top.

Think of those Woody Allen films about his home town, and the neurotic driver that runs through his characters. The same is a parent here – both Ben and Diana seem completely unable to express themselves with any confidence.

However, both are well cast for what they are asked to do: Mamet rocks a Frida Kahlo monobrow to great effect, and has the New York style down to a tee, while Ben is the archetypal Jewish New York chap: it’s like they crafted him from Plasticine, using a create-by-numbers manual.

While this film is gentle and inoffensive, and lacks a plot to such a degree that a mid-movie snooze will not hamper your understanding, it’s not offensively bad – it’s not good enough to be.

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