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Parents' Guide to

The Only Living Boy in New York

By Barbara Shulgasser-Parker, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 15+

Language, sex, drinking in tale of privilege, coming of age.

Movie R 2017 88 minutes
The Only Living Boy in New York Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

Community Reviews

age 18+

Based on 1 parent review

age 18+

A coming-of-age story about a young writer in New York City

Jeff Bridges, Pierce Brosnan, Kate Beckinsale and Cynthia Nixon -- four superb actors -- play four of the key figures in this coming-of-age story about a young would-be writer played by the beguiling British actor Callum Turner. The young writer's father is a wealthy publisher, and the writer's new next-door neighbor in an apartment building turns out to be a writer himself. The backdrop is Manhattan, the plot and dialogue are smart and unexpected, and the story keeps you guessing. What makes the film appealing in this day and age is a sensibility of care for one another among the five principal characters. They disappoint and take advantage of each another, but they don't desert or denounce one another The movie has a surprise ending, resolves the plot. It's a unique and likable film. a throw-back in a way to the gentler New York stories of the '60s and '70s.

This title has:

Great role models
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say: (1 ):
Kids say: Not yet rated

This drama is nicely written, but it's far from original. For one thing, the introduction of a mysterious character lamely foreshadows that character's importance. On the plus side, The Only Living Boy in New York deeply echoes the overall feel of Crossing Delancey, in which an aspiring young woman steeped in the literary world of New York bookstores and publishing also makes iffy choices in her complicated love life. And Mike Nichols' revered The Graduate reverberates in Thomas' aimlessness and his affair with an older woman. The Simon and Garfunkel theme song also nods at that earlier (and better) film. But unlike The Graduate, which at least suggested that its society's obsession with success and materialism was part of a larger social crisis, The Only Living Boy in New York dwells not on Thomas' advantages but on his petty concerns. There's no acknowledgment that the New York City allegedly lacking "soul" today probably does so mostly because it's only publishing house owners and successful novelists who can afford to live there. This obliviousness makes the story a little difficult to take seriously.

Obliviousness aside, the movie is a kind of love poem to a certain sector of privileged (or striving-to-be-privileged) New York artists of the sort who used to be mocked in old Woody Allen movies. Characters quote Ezra Pound and do their best to sound both pithy and world weary at dinner parties. Marc Webb, who directed The Amazing Spider-Man but who also does projects with more emotional heft, including the recent Gifted, grounds this film in a reality that it might otherwise be missing had it been based on the script alone. He gives non-problem problems a coat of gravity and coaxes Brosnan and Bridges out of their usual shtick (glib and sagely shambling, respectively). But the revelation here is Turner, an English actor whose American accent is flawless and whose ability to listen and to telegraph subtle emotions on camera makes him a pleasure to watch. The guy is lit from within.

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