07th Sep2020

‘The Night Clerk’ Review (Netflix)

by Chris Cummings

Stars: Tye Sheridan, Ana de Armas, Helen Hunt, John Leguizamo, Johnathon Schaech, Jacque Gray, Joey Miyashima | Written and Directed by Michael Cristofer

Written and directed by Michael Cristofer (Original Sin, Body Shots), The Night Clerk, which landed on Netflix here in the UK a few weeks ago, is a dark thriller about a young man named Bart (Tye Sheridan) with Asperger Syndrome, a form of autism, who works as a clerk on a night-shift at a hotel. Here, after installing cameras in the rooms of the hotel, Bart watches the guests in order to learn about human interactions to better educate himself on the norms of human relationships. It’s during his voyeurism that Bart witnesses a woman being murdered in her hotel room. The whole situation unravels with Bart becoming the prime suspect, all the while he makes a connection with a hotel guest named Andrea (Ana de Armas) who seemingly is in danger of becoming the real killer’s next victim.

The Night Clerk is a murder mystery thriller of sorts, with the twist being Bart himself, a young man whose way of trying to become part of society inadvertently causes him to become a focal point in a search for a murderer. It’s a simple but cool concept, and it certainly has some well-done elements, but there are big gaping holes here too, and the film ended with a fizzle, like a broken firework, rather than a big interesting bang. That’s a shame, too, because there’s a very good lead performance on offer here from Sheridan, and some nice side performances too, from Ana de Armas herself, Helen Hunt, who plays Bart’s Mom, Ethel, and from John Leguizamo as Detective Espada. I thought the casting was solid, and Sheridan’s performance and portrayal of a character with Asperger Syndrome was very well done. I think it perhaps missed a few subtleties and maybe wasn’t, at least to those who are more aware of the traits and physical elements surrounding Asperger’s, fully up to snuff, but I did think that Sheridan kept up a convincing character throughout the film, and it was easy to understand the difficulties that this character was dealing with and the reasons he struggled with certain aspects of communication in the process. Inspired, for sure, Sheridan is a very talented actor, and certainly the shining star of this film.

The problem here is with the story and how it ends, the build is nicely done, the characters make sense, and Bart himself feels like a man we can get behind and root for, but things just get convoluted and weak, almost like the writer got a little bored at the end and rushed things along. With a stronger finale and some tweaks to where these characters ended up, The Night Clerk could have been a way better movie overall. Still, it’s an enjoyable ninety-minute ride with some skillful acting that pulls it up a few notches. This really is a film that is carried with its performances rather than its plot, but they’re strong enough to make it worth watching, I feel.

*** 3/5

The Night Clerk is available to watch now on Netflix.


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