By Seth Lukas Hynes
The Night Clerk
Starring Tye Sheridan, Ana de Armas and John Leguizamo
The Night Clerk is a well-acted but flat and cliched drama about Bart (Tye Sheridan), an autistic hotel clerk who watches guests through hidden cameras. When he witnesses a murder, he cannot aid the investigation without incriminating himself.
Sheridan delivers a solid performance as a focused, amiable but stiff young man who wants to connect with others but lacks the cognitive tools, and his posture and physical mannerisms feel very authentic. Lying to protect himself is clearly difficult for Bart, and Sheridan has a riveting monologue in the form of an angry joke, as Bart’s frustration erupts during an interrogation.
However, Bart’s characterisation perpetuates media stereotypes about autism; most autistics (speaking as one myself) are not blunt, maladjusted robots. Moreover, most autistics have a clear sense of morality and restraint like anyone else, but the film presents Bart’s invasiveness as innocent, and even heroic toward the end.
Bart has sweet chemistry with Andrea (Ana de Armas), but she largely serves as a Manic Pixie Dream Girl: a thinly-written female character designed to pull the male protagonist out of his shell.
While Bart undergoes some engaging growth, the narrative carries very little danger or urgency, and the ending is abrupt and unsatisfying.
The Night Clerk has an excellent central performance, but it’s lacking in tension and steeped in stereotypes, and is available on DVD and iTunes.