Starring Zosia Mamet (Girls) and directed by Sophie Brooks in her first feature film outing, The Boy Downstairs is an interesting, if a little dull, Woody Allen-esque indie rom-com which tries its best to be quirky and fresh, but sadly ends up feeling a little predictable and contrived. Constructed around two parallel narratives, one in the present and the other one in the past, the film does its best to charter the high and lows of a romance between two young bright New Yorkers, but is sadly let down by its inability to present anything new or out of the ordinary despite a solid cast and a rather promising set up.
Diana (Zosia Mamet) moves back to New York after a few years studying in Europe and soon finds the perfect Brooklyn apartment where she hopes to make a fresh start and finally begin writing the novel she’s been working on since leaving college. On her first night, Diana discovers that the apartment below hers in being occupied by non other than her ex boyfriend Ben (Matthew Shear) who she hasn’t seen or heard from since their break-up. Hilarity ensues when she discovers that Ben has a new girlfriend (Sarah Ramos) who believes that he is being stalked by his jealous ex. Soon Ben and Diana are forced to confront their past and revisit the reason behind their painful break-up in a series of back and forth flashbacks.
In a role which isn’t a million miles away from her “Girls” character Shoshanna, Mamet puts in a decent enough turn as an upper middle class Brooklyn dweller, with perhaps one too many “first world problems” and a rather infuriating outlook on life and love. Seeing as the whole storyline hangs on its main character’s likability, it is at times challenging to stay on board with someone who is incapable of seeing further than their own privilege. For his part, Matthew Shear is presented as the hard-done-by ex who is prepared to go the extra mile to help Diana out of her current predicament, even if it means jeopardising his own relationship. Elsewhere, Deirdre O’Connell is excellent as Diana’s new landlady Amy, a former actress hoping to recapture past glories after the death of her husband.
While writer director Sophie Brooks should be commended for attempting to bring something new to the usual romantic comedy fodder, however The Boy Downstairs is ultimately let down by its own navel-gazing qualities and its inability to venture out beyond its simplistic premise. overall, the story feels rather flimsy and not completely sure where it wants to go, and by the time it does, you will have given up trying to second-guess or even care enough about its outcome.
The Boy Downstairs is in cinemas from Friday 8th of June