Tribeca Film Festival 2017: 'The Boy Downstairs' Review

Tribeca Film Festival 2017: 'The Boy Downstairs' Review

Zosia Mamet turns out an entertaining performance in a new role.

Zosia Mamet turns out an entertaining performance in a new role.

Text: Truman Ports

A New York based romantic comedy is nothing new—adding some odd, quirky dialogue that sounds like, well, dialogue, as opposed to real people having real conversations certainly does not help add authenticity or anything new to the tired genre. First time writer and director Sophie Brook's The Boy Downstairs, while a passable and more or less competent film, falls victim to these tropes that are becoming increasingly common in films about young people living in the city (Noah Baumbach's Mistress America comes to mind). All things aside, Brooks, an NYU Tisch graduate, still manages to pull together a debut film (at the Tribeca Film Festival no less) that is undoubtedly enjoyable and even humorous at times.

The film stars Zosia Mamet (the actress's first role post Girls) as Diana, a young writer with dual citizenship in America and England. Returning from a few year stint in London, Diana is in search of the perfect Brooklyn apartment, and when she seemingly finds her dream home (a gorgeous Brooklyn brownstone that she can somehow pay for as a writer and part-time bridal shop worker), all illusion of perfection is shattered when she discovers Ben (Matthew Shear), her old boyfriend, lives in the unit below her.

The narrative shifts from present day to flashbacks of Diana and Ben's relationship (first date, meeting the parents, fights about the future, etc) before her move to London. Throughout the film, we also get scenes of Diana with her best friend Gabby (Diana Irvine) as well as her retired actress landlord and wise older friend Amy (Deirdre O'Connell). The two have plot lines of their own (Gabby dealing with her own relationship issues and Amy working through the death of her husband), but they mostly feel shoehorned in and slow down the pacing since they don't contribute much to the overall narrative.

Mamet is captivating as Diana—proving that the last five years we watched her on Girls wasn't just a lucky role for her. Dealing with a wide range of emotions, Mamet is hilarious in the delivery of her lines (sometimes making the best of a character with bizarre humor that could easily fall flat with a different actress in the role) but is also heartbreaking to watch with the ease and realistic manner in which she conjures tears. Shear is even relatable as Ben, an average guy who is conflicted about Diana's sudden reappearance in his life. He is able to make Ben both a likeable guy, but also one you want to slap across the face with his indecisiveness and expectations of Diana (who admittedly is a bit creepy in her obsessive and carefully choreographed run-ins with him).

The Boy Downstairs may not have subverted the romantic comedy genre with any unexpected plot turns (the ending is fairly predictable) but Brooks first feature is by no means bad, and will certainly guarantee a second. The performances from Mamet and Shear is where the movie really shines, their awkward encounters truly believable as awkward, and are probably the most memorable thing from the film.

The Boy Downstairs premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival which runs until April 30. Check the schedule here to buy tickets.

Credits: Photo Banner courtesy of the Tribeca Film Festival


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