Movie Review: Not Much There in”The Boy Downstairs”

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There’s not much to say about the enervated romance “The Boy Downstairs,” except that literally every character and actor playing that character is more interesting than the leads. Every last one of them, down to the accented waiter at the Italian restaurant where our would-be couple bickers over there being no lemons for their ice water.

“But…you have lemon risotto on the menu!”

“Lemons are for food, only!”

Zosia Mamet of TV’s “Girls” is Diana, newly moved in to the same apartment building as her ex, Ben (Matthew Shear of “Mistress America”).  Through her eyes we revisit their affair, the break-up precipitated by her two-year move to London, and the regrets that wash over her with every fresh flashback.

And with every rose-colored recollection, we scrunch up our noses and wonder, “Yeah, and?” Rarely has the big screen exhausted 91 minutes on a romance with less sexual heat, with leads who have compatibility — they’re equally dull — but little chemistry Seldom have we met an aspiring writer (Diana) and musician (Ben) who make meeting and falling in love in the Big City more boring, with less evidence that either has anything going on.

She has a prettier and funnier BFF (Diana Irvine) and he has a prettier and funnier new girlfriend (Sarah Ramos), actually the real estate agent who showed Diana the apartment. And they both have a landlady (Deirdre O’Connell) with a more interesting back story (a widowed one-time actress) than we suspect these two bores will ever achieve.

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Few things are duller on the screen than the process of writing, and adding Apple product placement to it adds no pizzazz. There’s more promise in Diana’s day job — working in a bridal boutique. Ben? We see nothing of his life outside Diana. Mamet, yeah she’s HIS daughter (with Lindsay Crouse), has little animation to her acting, her voice a mousy “vocal fry,” her face a near blank beneath inexpressive jet-black eyebrows.

What first-time feature writer-director Sophie Brooks was going for is a meditation on longing and romantic regret, with Diana pining away even as she recalls the disapproval of her father (Arliss Howard) and the warm but cautious embrace of Ben’s parents, the ho-hum routines of her life with Ben and the abrupt but understandable end to the affair. The fictive present is filled with Diana finding ways to put herself back in Ben’s path, to the growing irritation of his new girlfriend, despite the blunt evidence that there’s nothing going on.

Which unfortunately makes an all-too-apt blurb describing “The Boy Downstairs” — the movie, the “boy” himself and the dull young woman who lives above.  Nothing but nothing goes on.

1half-star

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some sexual material, brief strong language and drug references

Cast: Zosia Mamet, Matthew Shear, Deirdre O’Connell, Diana Irvine, Arliss Howard, Sarah Ramos

Credits:Written and directed by Sophie Brooks. A FilmRise release.

Running time: 1:31

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