Review: Stay the Night (2022)

My response to this movie was so strong I had to interrogate it a little bit. What is this bringing up in me? Why such a personal reaction? This calls into question the whole film critic thing in general. Why distrust a personal reaction? Isn’t that the whole deal? The problem with totally trusting your first reaction is sometimes you can get swept away by something that – on a second look – is fairly empty. And so you “relating” to it or something is actually a filter that might have more to do with where you are at at that particular time … and once you move out of that time, the film will reveal all its flaws. Meanwhile, you are on record praising it to the skies. This has happened to me. I have gotten things wrong. (The opposite is also true: I have been turned off by something, or for whatever reason I wasn’t in the right mood, and the movie didn’t work for me. Then, on a second look, I think, “What was my problem that I didn’t see this film’s CLEAR gifts?”) It’s more irritating when the second one happens – because then you are on record criticizing a movie that you end up loving. This is just part of the gig and I suppose it’s even more of a danger if you – typically – have strong reactions. (H.L. Mencken said the only requirement for a critic was that they have “a capacity for gusto”. Well. I have that.)

Stay the Night is one of those “two random people meet and spend a long night together wandering around, talking, having adventures, and ultimately it’s about the fragility of connection and the ephemeral nature of time” movies. I took a night to think about Stay the Night, and decided I still loved it, and that my love is pure. I watched it again. I loved it again. In fact, it was even MORE fun the second time, because I could just sit and revel in the actors’ work, their dynamic, their behavior.

This movie doesn’t take on any grand subject (although I would argue that finding a connection with another human being is the grandest subject of all). It’s not about How We Live Now. But this makes Stay the Night not only radical, but refreshing. It’s a romance. Sort of. With two interesting characters. There’s nothing I like better watching two people listen and talk, listen and talk, listen and talk, for an hour and a half. The two actors – Andrea Bang and Joe Scarpellino – are so damn good, and so damn into each other. You get drawn into their dynamic. I saw one critic call it “old-fashioned”. Yeah, because a man and a woman trying to connect is “old-fashioned” as opposed to … a major issue for literally MILLIONS perhaps BILLIONS of people.

Sometimes a movie just grabs you by the heart, and the only thing you can do is just SAY that.

So here’s my review at Ebert.

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