THE ONLY LIVING BOY IN NEW YORK learns about life
The film opens with Jeff Bridges’ voice. Much like in a Woody Allen or Spike Lee film, Jeff describes and discusses an average New Yorker’s appreciation, knowledge and love for their city, while the camera visually tours the city streets and its residents. Bridges introduces the main characters, while they are all enjoying dinner together…but first, he introduces himself. Bridges plays W.F. Gerald, the neighbor to Thomas Webb (Callum Turner), who is the son of both publisher Ethan Webb (Pierce Brosnan) and artist Judith Webb (Cynthia Nixon). After Thomas is told that his girlfriend Mimi (Kiersey Clemons) is leaving New York to attend school abroad, he seeks sage advice and wisdom from the whiskey-drinking W.F. Gerald. As he is enjoying one of the few remaining moments he has with Mimi, Thomas catches his father at a bar entertaining another woman – Johanna (Kate Beckinsale). The discovery does not sit well with Thomas, yet he becomes intrigued by her beauty and he decides to follow her around the city. Despite Thomas’ original plan to break up the relationship between his father and Johanna, Thomas has a momentary encounter with her and they become physically intimate. As is typical of the lifespan of a love triangle, especially involving a father and his son, this immoral structure ultimately threatens to destroy them.
The Only Living Boy in New York is director Marc Webb’s fifth feature film, following both Amazing Spider-Man entries, and several music video creations. Through intellectual dialogue and intimate cinematography, the film generates enough empathy through its characters that by the films conclusion, the audience have produced enough moral disgust over the characters that any misplaced good intentions produced thus far become solid means for needed redemption. The title of the film, which is also a song written and recorded by Simon & Garfunkel, has both literal and literary meaning – Despite the fact that most of the male characters are the ones who learn life lessons, the story always seems to center around Thomas. Thomas is the one with the active moral compass, yet he has to make mistakes in order to learn a life lesson – relationships are never easy, and no one ever has it all figured out. To truly be ‘living’, you have to ‘learn how to live’. This film enjoys displaying the complications that people create for themselves, as well as the struggles it takes to simplify, solve, and maintain a harmonious lifestyle.
The film also stars Tate Donovan, Wallace Shawn, and Debi Mazar as supportive dinner guests. Complicated matters involving affairs and interfamilial relationships always make for good entertainment. Go see this one.