The Night Clerk (2020)

Michael Patel
3 min readDec 11, 2021


The energy of this movie is not quite calibrated correctly. The energy of the narrative, the energy of the performances, and the energy of the tone are all off. The result is a movie that is both messy and tidy. Great movies understand how to play with their energy. Build, release. Build, release. Set up, payoff. Set up, payoff. Unfortunately, The Night Clerk woefully miscalculates.

The momentum of the movie runs dry near the halfway point. The movie suffers from 30-minute syndrome. All the best scenes (all pretty much in the hotel) are front loaded in the first half hour. Once the movie shifts away from the hotel, so does my interest. The hotel did not exactly feel like a character itself, but once it disappears, the movie feels hollow and empty. The hotel should feel like a supporting character who is in a deep and twisted co-dependent relationship with Bart (Tye Sheridan). He should come across as an obsessive caretaker who wants to feel like he belongs in the world. His night job should feel like an addiction to fend off loneliness. Instead, a lot of the movie’s energy is placed towards the wrong relationship.

Which brings me to an irksome question: is Ana de Armas too young to play the femme fatale? She owns the best scene of the movie (the pool scene), but too much energy is put into building her femme fatale turn. And her performance becomes burdened by that inevitability. It doesn’t sour into boredom, but it loses a lot of sizzle. For comparison, almost none of the delightful energy she has in Knock Knock translates to this movie. That’s the frenzied energy the movie needed a jolt of in the second half.

The mom (Helen Hunt) does her best to jack up as many shots as she can on screen, but it plays out like someone at a pop-a-shot machine. She’s bringing way too much unfocused Black Swan mother energy, particularly in the back half of the movie as the setting shifts to the house. The big emotional scene at the dinner table provides Helen Hunt with an opportunity to leave her mark, but mostly I was just left wanting absolutely none of her leftovers.

Ultimately, this movie needed more thrills. The energy should have been somewhere in the vortex of Red Eye meets Uncut Gems. Even the best scene of the movie that takes place at the hotel pool could have used an injection of Safdie brothers anxiety. Imagine if the filmmakers played up and counterbalanced the stress of Bart trying to pick up Ana de Armas with him just-abandoning-his-post-at-the-desk. Or what if more of the mundane tasks of his daily life took place at night. Have him go to the grocery store at night — have him do anything at night so that the baseline dramatic tension of the story is lifted. Is that too much to ask from a movie called The NIGHT Clerk? The tone of the movie is misguided, which is why the conclusion feels far too tidy. It’s a chemistry experiment where there’s not enough catalyst for any real fun to crystallize from the reaction. Instead, check out A Simple Favor for a movie that actually pops.