09th Nov2021

‘This is the Night’ Review

by Kevin Haldon

Stars: Lucius Hoyos, Madelyn Cline, Frank Grillo, Bobby Carnavale, Jonah Hauer-King, Naomi Watts | Written and Directed by James DeMonaco

Ah yes, another day another Frank Grillo project! To be fair though this is a pretty big change of pace from the action thrillers we are used to seeing Grillo in right now, as he sinks his teeth into a brilliant little coming of age movie that hits every single mark it aims for, even giving Grillo a moment of acting brilliance all the while paying homage to one the greatest movies to have ever hit the big screen… Rocky III.

This is the Night or Once Upon a Time in Staten Island (I prefer This is the Night) is the story of the Dedea family one day in 1982 more specifically it’s the day of the release of Rocky III and the family, much like pretty much the entire town couldn’t be anymore excited for this premiere. However this is a movie and more importantly a coming of age movie so we are going to have to deal with some “stuff”.

Youngest son and our lead Anthony (Lucius Hoyos) has his day planned, he is meeting up with the boys heading to see Rocky III and this is the night he lets Sophia Larocca (Madelyn Cline) know how he feels at her Sweet 16 birthday party. Things take a turn when Sophias current boyfriend, in a fit of jealousy, leads a packed cinema to believe that Anthony said “Rocky is a Pussy” (the F**K). Anthony and his friends must now avoid pretty much everyone including local law enforcement for fear of having their arse kicked. However Anthony still has his mission!

Father Vincent (Grillo) is catering for Sophias big birthday party and couldn’t be more stressed as he finds the business is going under but this is the night he is going to ask local mob boss (Bobby Carnavale), Sophia’s dad and somewhat estranged friend, to help him out in a pinch.

Eldest son Christian (Jonah Hauer-King) is struggling to come to terms with his sexuality and how he feels inside but a movie experience like Rocky III can make you feel invincible, you can do anything so this is the night Christian reveals to mother Marie (Naomi Watts) that he is in fact gay (something she already suspected). How will very manly man Vincent take the news.

Remember though this is the night everyone gets to see Rocky III and if we know anything about anything it’s that Rocky inspires.

I was a huge fan of this movie and can say with my hand on my heart that it’s one of the most expertly crafted and beautifully written coming of age movies I’ve seen in a long time. This Is the Night is up there with the likes of Almost Famous, Stand By Me or Dazed and Confused.

All the young actors are great and portray a very real friendship of the time, Grillo as the father is spot on in a role slightly against type that provides him with some explosive heartfelt action that had me with a lump in my throat.

The real brilliance of this movie comes from a corner I was not expecting and that is the Christian coming out to his mum Marie storyline. I can’t even explain how beautifully Naomi Watts plays the accepting mum to her gay son and her desperation to want to be there and help him traverse this conversation, a performance matched only by Hauer-King as he battles with not only himself and coming out to his parents but also the struggle of being free in the moment only to have to hide it later, after all if we can’t ourselves what chance do we have. I don’t know… call me a great big softy but this relationship and scenario was as real as I’ve seen portrayed on screen. Those moments with Mum, Dad and Sons during the big revelation are just palpable.

Is This Is the Night perfect, not really no but all of the little problems I had were dwarfed by a cast so strong working from a script so rich written and directed painfully realistically by the creator of The Purge franchise James DeMonaco. I tip my cap to the man and this wonderful cast and crew he has assembled.

***** 5/5

In closing, I ask you to do one thing… make sure This is the Night you watch this flick.


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