A woman in a blue dress talks to a man in a grey shirt, standing in front of a park bench in the sun.

Staff Review: The Boy Downstairs

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Boys meets Girl. They fall in love. They break up. End of story, right? Or so our protagonists think. Diana moves back to New York City from London with aspirations of being a writer with the beginnings of a novel under her belt. Diana meets with a prospective landlady (Deirdre O’Connell), they hit it off and Diana becomes the new tenant upstairs. What Diana isn’t betting on is seeing her ex-boyfriend’s name on one of the apartment building’s post boxes. A coincidence? No, he is the boy downstairs.

Diana (Zosia Mamet) and Ben (Matthew Shear) are unexpectedly confronted with each other and old wounds need to be confronted too. They have seemingly moved on with Diana chasing her writing dream and Ben in a new relationship. Each interaction is paired with a moment from their past; from their first date up until their break-up. As the narrative progresses we see the usual trappings of a rom-com but perhaps an unexpected edge is the clever use of dialogue. Diana’s droll sense of humour is lost on many, in particular Ben’s new girlfriend Meg, but she finds her match in Ben.

Whilst Zosia Mamet and Matthew Shear are believable in their roles, it is the cast of supporting characters who boost our interest beyond, ‘will they? Won’t they?’ Deirdre O’Connell as Diana’s landlady Amy and Diana’s best friend Gabby (Diana Irvine) could have so easily fit into one-dimensional frames as match-makers. Instead we care for Amy as she gets back onto the stage after her husband’s death and Gabby’s own frustrating adventures in dating.

There is nothing ground breaking here. We all know how the Boy meets Girl story ends. However, there are some wonderfully touching moments, in particular, Diana and Amy decorating a Christmas tree on what would have been Amy’s wedding anniversary. Whilst the story’s end game is whether or not Diana and Ben will grasp their second chance at love, it is encouraging that this is not the single focus. The Boy Downstairs passes the Bechdel test. We see Diana pursuing her literary career and her growing friendships with Amy and Gabby. The Boy Downstairs is a rom-com for a new generation who are not willing to compromise from the get-go; they want to travel and chase the dream. Love is no longer being packaged as a first-sight, one-time whirlwind. Love is giving us a second chance.

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