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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Night Clerk is a crime drama about a young man with Asperger's syndrome (Tye Sheridan) who becomes involved in murder. There are a few scenes of strong violence, most notably a dead body with a large pool of blood. Viewers will also see other blood stains/wounds and violence against women (a man shoves a woman, slaps her, etc.). Guns are shown, and shots are heard. A woman appears topless, characters kiss, and there are several instances of sex-related talk/innuendo (e.g., "porn" is mentioned). A man appears to be meeting two different women for sex in hotel rooms. Language includes "f--k," "s--t," "ass," "bastard," and more. Characters smoke cigarettes and drink socially and with dinner; there's a reference to vaping. The movie's characters are stronger than the story, but they're so well done that The Night Clerk is still worth a look for mature viewers.
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What's the story?
In THE NIGHT CLERK, Bart Bromley (Tye Sheridan), a young man with Asperger's syndrome, works the 8 p.m. to 4 a.m. shift at the front desk of a small hotel. Hoping to learn to improve his social interactions, Bart has placed secret cameras in the rooms to study people. One night he spies a woman being beaten to death by a mysterious man; only the perpetrator's tattoo is visible. Because of Bart's odd behavior, a police detective (John Leguizamo) starts to suspect him, and Bart's worrying, protective mother (Helen Hunt) tries to shield him. Meanwhile, a new woman, Andrea (Ana de Armas), checks in to the hotel. Since her brother also had Asperger's, she understands Bart's behavior. They become friends, and Bart begins to nurse romantic feelings for her. But the murderer is still on the loose ...
Is it any good?
This crime drama with emotionally touching performances is surprisingly low-key and quiet, taking advantage of the wee hours of the dark during which much of the story takes place. Writer-director Michael Cristofer, also an actor and an award-winning playwright, hasn't made a film since 2001 (although he did co-write the 2017 boxing biopic Chuck), and his earlier works dealt in much seamier material. The Night Clerk is a welcome improvement, relying on the excellent Sheridan to effectively convey Bart's social awkwardness and frustration, but also deep intelligence and breadth of feeling. It goes beyond any potentially gimmicky performance; it gets to the heart of things.
The other key to the movie's success is de Armas, whose Andrea shows great compassion to Bart, even after things turn uneasy between them. Cristofer creates an alluring atmosphere, using the night air and the hotel's small size to create an insulated feel, almost as if this were a dream of a film noir. Where The Night Clerk doesn't quite live up to expectations is in some of its character motivations and in its murder plot. It's serviceable and effective, but it lacks any sharp twists and turns to keep die-hard mystery fans guessing. Fortunately, the characters are interesting enough that they make the movie worth a look.
Talk to your kids about ...
How is sex depicted? What values are imparted? How did you react to Bart's clinical explanation of why people fall in love?
How is Asperger's syndrome depicted here? What did you learn? Does the movie seem fair and honest? Does it rely on any stereotypes?
What's the appeal of murder stories? Why do we like to watch them?
- In theaters: February 21, 2020
- On DVD or streaming: April 7, 2020
- Cast: Tye Sheridan, Ana de Armas, Helen Hunt, John Leguizamo
- Director: Michael Cristofer
- Studio: Saban Films
- Genre: Thriller
- Run time: 90 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: language, some sexual references, brief nudity and violent images
- Last updated: April 7, 2020
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