The Boy Downstairs: A Character Study in Romance

The Boy Downstairs. Photo credit: Jon Pack.

The Boy Downstairs isn’t the typical New York-set romantic comedy but comes across as more of a character study.

Written and directed by Sophie Brooks, the film stars Zosia Mamet, Matthew Shear, Deirdre O’Connell, Sarah Ramos, and Diana Irvine.

After living in London for three years, Diana (Mamet) has moved back to New York City.  Moving quickly into an apartment in Brooklyn, Diana soon discovers what could be anyone’s worst fear: her ex-boyfriend, Ben (Shear) lives in the apartment downstairs.  Their reunion couldn’t have been any more uncomfortable if they tried.  Diana makes it clear that she only wants to be friends but as time passes by, they have to deal with whatever feelings they still have for each other.  Make no mistake that those feelings are there–even if its just hiding beneath the surface.

Those feelings get complicated with the presence of Meg (Ramos), the young woman who showed Diana the apartment.  It’s Amy (O’Connell) though that Diana turns to for advice as if they were mother and daughter.

A veteran of two short films, Sophie Brooks makes her feature debut with the film.  It may not be a studio blockbuster but the indie comedy is a solid attempt in making a feature that explores women and and how one’s relationships can be both demanding, forthright, funny, and sad at the same time.

Brooks could have chosen to make Diana’s life a complete living hell but the first-time feature filmmaker wisely chose not to do so.  Well, she does to an extent but that’s through Diana’s own fears when it comes to just wanting to be friends with Ben rather than fully try to get back together.  There’s some definite times with the two of them together on screen in which one can’t help but root for the two of them to be more than a “will they or won’t they” type of relationship even though they were together years before.

Mamet’s performance shows some promise as leading lady material and her performance helps to elevate the film.  It’s a great move post-Girls for the actress as she seeks out new opportunities for her career.  Diana doesn’t seem to be close in similarity to that of Shoshanna Shapiro on the long-running HBO series.

While the film’s premise does make for a fascinating idea to be explored, the non-linear storytelling does make for some confusion in understanding what’s happening.  While there are some jumps back in time that do get noted on screen on occasion, the film does flashback without warning.  Despite the confusion, the flashbacks do help us to understand why Diana or Ben are making the decisions that they do so it isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

The Boy Downstairs makes for a compelling character study in romance while depicting the hardships that come both during and after a relationship.

Premiering at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival, Filmrise releases The Boy Downstairs in select theaters on February 16, 2018.

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.

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