A socially awkward hotel clerk on the Asperger’s spectrum finds himself centre stage in a murder investigation, but is there more to the crime than the police are led to believe? Michael Cristofer (Original Sin, The Witches of Eastwick) writes and directs an offbeat crime drama with a unique central character who perceives the world in a different light at the forefront.
Tye Sheridan (Ready Player One, X-Men: Dark Phoenix) is the film’s driving force. The young actor gives an exceptionally believable performance as the misunderstood individual struggling to function in his everyday life. Sheridan plays Bart so realistically we as an audience are given an insight into his coping strategies and reactions to incidents that are happening around him. Seeing Bart interact with other characters creates a level of tension, especially as early on it is established that Bart is a voyeur as he spies on the guests, mimicking their dialogue to make sense of his own social etiquette. Initially, it’s never clear-cut to whether Bart’s behaviour is purely harmless or if there’s something much more dangerous about him.
Cristofer approaches the characterisation respectfully, rather than overexaggerating the character’s condition or taking the exploitative route, he has created a well-rounded, three dimensional, complex, believable person with so many layers that there is so much to unpack with him. There are moments of humour injected in where we see Bart bluntly express what’s on his mind to others who are subsequently taken aback, showing that the character has a brutally honest side. Sheridan’s performance and Cristofer’s writing keeps Bart utterly engaging throughout, as viewers we are therefore compelled to go on this journey with him.
The Night Clerk is essentially a character study of what would happen if a vulnerable person became embroiled in a harrowing crime outside of their control, it isn’t heavy on the gore or violence and never makes those elements the focal point.
The supporting cast are equally stellar complimenting Sheridan’s performance. Ana de Armas (Knives Out) is compelling in the role of Andrea Rivera, a misguided young woman that teeters on the femme fatale trope to a degree. She is the character we see interacting on screen the most with Bart. As their fondness for each other grows, is Andrea all that she seems, will she be the catalyst who potentially sparks Bart’s downfall?
Helen Hunt plays a minor but welcome role as Bart’s patient and understanding mother, Ethel. She doesn’t feature heavily in the film but stands out in an emotional scene with her son where more is revealed about their family background. John Leguizamo plays the officer investigating the shocking hotel murder. Officer Espada is torn between what little evidence he has while not wanting to outright accuse Bart displaying compassion and wanting to educate himself more on Bart’s condition which is a far cry away from the usual portrayal of police officers in the thriller genre. This refreshing approach adds a dimension of complexity to the narrative.
Even though the pacing falls to the wayside towards the end, becoming a bit too repetitive and drawn out, The Night Clerk is an intriguing character study placing an unconventional protagonist at the centre of the drama. The Night Clerk is a thought-provoking, multi-layered and an unexpectedly compelling watch.
The Night Clerk will be released on Blu-ray, DVD and digital Monday 6th April 2020 courtesy of 101 Films.