If it’s less punchy and original than “(500) Days of Summer,” it’s still a wry tale that deserves to be seen. Gerald keeps telling Thomas that life should be a mess, but in The Only Living Boy in New York it’s a pleasingly witty and well-observed one.
As the film spirals outward from its central relationship to delve into other characters’ hidden pasts, the story becomes too unwieldy and fragmented for the audience to develop a comprehensive understanding of Callum Turner's Thomas or his personal evolution.
The boy is but a shell; it’s the men and women around him who truly come to life in this chaotic, awkward, and sporadically moving film.
The whole endeavour ends up feeling fussy and clever rather than incisive and nuanced — especially when a late twist seriously jeopardises plausibility.
Even the best actors – and this coming-of-age movie boasts a handful of them – can't fight this much tin-eared dialogue.
How ironic then, in a movie about wordsmithing, that The Only Living Boy in New York is tripped up not by tawdry behavior, but by terrible writing.
Song reference or not, the title alone should be a major red flag, but there’s no way to fully prepare yourself for the navel-gazing narcissism to come during the film itself.
The A.V. Club
Marc Webb’s new movie, in contrast, uses the song for its title, the name of an in-movie manuscript, and as a late-breaking song cue that doesn’t drop the needle so much as clunk it down with turgid inevitability.
The Hollywood Reporter
While The Only Living Boy in New York looks nice (it was shot on film by veteran DP Stuart Dryburgh), it's an unabashed fake — glib and movie-ish in a grating way, with lots of prefab "soulfulness" and none of the texture or rough edges of life.
This is a movie full of characters you would walk away from at a cocktail party, engaging in the flattest brand of smart banter imaginable.