Claire Peterson (Jennifer Lopez) has seen trouble in her home life when her husband Garrett (John Corbett) cheated on her repeatedly, leaving her and their teenage son Kevin (Ian Nelson) for someone else. Now Garrett appears keen to rekindle their relationship, but her best friend Vicky (Kristin Chenoweth) is convinced there's little point and Claire shouldn't offer him a second chance, but the fact remains she misses the stability of being married, and is suffering mixed emotions about the whole thing. Then her elderly neighbour Mr Sandborn (Jack Wallace) introduces her to his recently orphaned nephew Noah (Ryan Guzman) and he seems like a nice boy, although maybe she shouldn’t get too close...
The general reaction to The Boy Next Door was hoots of derision, with almost everyone calling out the gift Noah gives Claire of a first edition of the Iliad which to many sounded ridiculous for a work created thousands of years ago, what was this kid, some kind of archaeologist? But there were deeper issues than that for others, since the whole plot appeared to be warning middle-aged women away from pursuing romantic or even sexual relationships, even if they were with men young enough to be their sons, indeed, especially if that were the case. Then add in the fact that this was a throwback to the psycho threatens the family unit thrillers of the late nineteen-eighties and nineties, and it could be seen as a retrograde step.
But where was the fun in that? As the script was penned by a woman, erstwhile Assistant District Attorney Barbara Curry, you might have thought she had some experience in criminal behaviour and, well, being a woman, and if you took a different take on her storyline you could equally see a commentary on how the media and wider culture regards females of a certain age and what was expected of them. Initially, when Claire and Noah get rather too close for Claire's comfort, we did get a masturbatory fantasy sex scene to illustrate how our heroine was letting her lusts rule her better judgement, not that we saw very much, so it was perhaps more tasteful than some would like, but once that was over it was consequences all the way.
Since once you reach a level of experience in life where you can more easily realise that there are always effects from your actions, Curry's screenplay could be seen as pandering to that maturity, and after all there were not many psychothrillers made for ladies over forty, so why should they be left out when they can put themselves in Claire's place and cringe along with her when it all went wrong? Alternatively, some enjoyment could be gained from getting judgemental on Claire's choices, secure in the knowledge that you would never allow yourself to get stuck in such a dire situation, yet we can understand Claire's range of opportunities are severely limited when she has responsibilities in her day to day life that do not allow for much in the way of throwing caution to the wind.
When Vicky sets her up with a blind date, the potential suitor is such an opinionated moron that we can well understand why Claire might be setting herself up for misery, even for the rest of her life, and indeed she does end up having to lump it with Garrett. Which was all very well, but this was a thriller, and that did dictate the narrative as it became increasingly implausible that Noah would be allowed to walk the streets in freedom after his antics, all of which scream "stalker". Claire is in the position of not being able to go to the cops because then she'd have to admit the fling with a student (who if he looks like he's in his late twenties, is down to Guzman being in his late twenties), and Kevin looks up to him as a surrogate father figure now Garrett has let everyone down, so she risks breaking the already fragile teen's confidence. Basically, in spite of what many observed, it wasn't Claire's fault any of this, it was because the men were such deadbeats and letdowns that she was trapped with them, which was a bleak view of modern relationships, even for a silly, hotblooded suspense item like this. Music by Nathan Barr and Randy Edelman.