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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

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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