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Soundtrack review: The only living boy in New York (Rob Simonsen – 2017)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: The only living boy in New York (Rob Simonsen – 2017)


“The Only Living Boy in New York” is a 2017 American drama film directed by Marc Webb and written by Allan Loeb. The film stars Callum Turner, Kate Beckinsale, Pierce Brosnan, Cynthia Nixon and Jeff Bridges. Adrift in New York City, a recent college graduate’s life is upended by his father’s mistress. The score was written by Rob Simonsen.

Rob Simonsen has grown into one of my favourite composers for the past couple of year and each new score is another reason for me to get excited and anticipate great film music. The strength of his scores is almost always found in texture and atmosphere rather than in themes and earlier this year I heard “Gifted” and “Going in style” which were very enjoyable. “Only living boy in New York” sends me back to my favourite kind of rom com sound, the light and sweet sound that is similar to a leaf being carried by the careless early autumn wind. After a jazzy opening that made me think a little of John Williams’ “Catch me if you can” Rob goes a bit deeper and melancholic with “Johanna” and, especially, “A day in her life” which combines a beautiful waltz with the guitar that rarely leaves a Rob Simonsen scores. It’s the first moment of “Only living boy in New York” that gets my attention.

What I appreciate even more is that the composer isn’t content with just writing a simple background score for this movie; he nuances his music according with the story and scenes and I can hear that in the music. A cue like “Stop seeing him” is half comedy half drama as the string section makes me take it very seriously. I like how present the flute is in this album as there is rarely a clearer and simpler way for me to connect with the characters.

“The poems written in life are not guaranteed”…this is the kind of title you don’t often find for a cue. I just wanted to mention it not only because of the beautiful tango it hides within but also for this very poetic cue title. “Slow afternoon” is a quiet and suave jazz piece with only a slow piano and a barely touched percussion. The trumpet joins in midway and makes me dream. I have seen hundreds of movies set in New York and I can’t think of a better cue to play over an autumn montage of slow afternoons. I get the same pure NY sensation from “Old New York” as well.

Rob Simonsen showcases his bag of tricks with “The only living boy in New York”; this isn’t your usual romantic comedy score, this is a collection of little musical gems that show me once again why I shouldn’t miss a Rob Simonsen score no matter the movie. With lush orchestral and jazzy nuggets inside, without ever getting heavy, with clever combinations of flute, percussion and acoustic guitar inside the same cue, “The only living boy in New York” shows a composer who is not afraid to experiment and who even brings pieces of tango and waltz into a score that, as always in this composer’s case regardless of my expectations, is more than I thought it would be.

Cue rating: 88 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 15 / 31

Album excellence: 48%

A Day in Her Life
Stop Seeing Him
The Poems Written in Life Lines Are Not Guaranteed
Slow Afternoons
The Party
The One That Didn’t Run Away
Thomas Webb (String only version)

Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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  1. Valedictorian 17th October 2018

    Did you see the movie as well? If so, do you know what music is played on the piano from 29:10 (the scene after Thomas talks to Johanna in front of the fitnesscenter, where Johanna sits at home and Jeff Bridges says “Johanna wasn’t raised by writers, she was raised by bankers)?


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