The Boy Downstairs (3 stars)

The Boy Downstairs

Zosia Mamet stars in a likeable but inconsequential romantic drama from writer-director Sophie Brooks

Love requires endless second chances in The Boy Downstairs, a winsome wisp of a debut from writer-director Sophie Brooks. There are distant echoes of Annie Hall and vague hints of the influence of Greta Gerwig or Lena Dunham in the very low-key story of a woman trying to make sense of an on/off romance.

Aspiring writer Diana (Zosia Mamet from TV's Girls) has just returned from a lengthy sabbatical in Europe and is making a fresh start in what seems to be an amazingly affordable airy brownstone in New York. By sheer coincidence, former boyfriend Ben (Matthew Shear) is already resident in the basement flat of her new apartment block. She could handle being friends, he seems to want to be left alone. Hearts have clearly been broken and unspoken regrets fill the silence between them. As the awkward situation unfolds, the film meanders backwards and forwards in time to pick apart their past relationship and discover whether there could still be a spark worth rekindling.

The Boy Downstairs is likeable enough but doesn't amount to anything of substance. It is a tale of constant indecision, romantic befuddlement and mild-mannered embarrassment in which Diana and Ben are always presented to us as the right people at the wrong time. It is hard to invest in a relationship that never seems to really matter. They could reunite and enjoy a happy-ever-after, or just walk away and call it quits and it would be fine either way.

There is a mumblecore feel to the film's drab look and a screenplay wedded to bone-dry asides and naturalistic conversations, rather than sharp wit or comic highpoints. Like the central couple and their romantic travails, The Boy Downstairs is content to bumble along in an amiable fashion, without any fear of ever turning memorable.

Selected release from Fri 8 Jun.

The Boy Downstairs

  • 3 stars
  • 2017
  • US
  • 1h 29min
  • 12A
  • Directed by: Sophie Brooks
  • Cast: Zosia Mamet, Matthew Shear, Deirdre O'Connell
  • UK release: 8 June 2018

Diana (Mamet), an aspiring writer, returns from a European sabbatical and finds that former boyfriend Ben (Shear) is living in the basement flat of her apartment block. A winsome wisp of a romance, likeable and naturalistic enough but lacking in substance, sharp wit or comic highpoints.