‘Stay the Night’ Movie Review [SXSW 2022]: An All-Too Subtle Romance

Richard Linklater’s Before Trilogy is perhaps one of the greatest dramatic stories about love and other filmmakers have tried to capture that same magic for years. However, it’s lightning in a bottle that doesn’t come along frequently. Stay the Night writer/director Renuka Jeyapalan enters the “walk-and-talk” genre with lackluster results.

‘Stay the Night’ sees two lost souls find their way

'Stay the Night' Joe Scarpellino as Carter and Andrea Bang as Grace embracing one another in dim lighting
L-R: Joe Scarpellino as Carter and Andrea Bang as Grace | SXSW

Grace (Andrea Bang) feels like an outcast in the modern world of dating. Her roommate and the rest of society primarily seek romantic and sexual partners through dating apps, which feel unnatural for her. However, Grace happens to meet a professional athlete named Carter Stone (Joe Scarpellino) one night in a bar.

Stay the Night creates the perfect set-up for Grace and Carter to have a one-night stand. However, it goes completely wrong. Instead, they decide to spend the evening walking and talking through the streets of Toronto. Their conversations and past lived experiences will leave them at a place at the end of the night that will change their lives forever.

Writer/director Renuka Jeyapalan explores what it means to take chances

Grace is an HR professional with a passion to grow into an associate position. She feels that she’s ready for the promotion, but her boss says otherwise on account of her “stand-offish” nature. Meanwhile, Stay the Night finds Carter having his own career woes, as his hockey team is looking to trade him to another team. Grace and Carter invested so much into their careers, only to get the feeling that they aren’t enough.

The romance front isn’t too much more promising. Grace admits to Carter that she’s a virgin after their initially awkward encounter. However, Jeyapalan’s screenplay opens their dialogue after this first interaction. They speak on some of their biggest insecurities, secrets, and memories of the past. As a result, they learn about each other but also more about themselves.

Stay the Night is all about taking chances. Grace and Carter both find themselves making decisions that they wouldn’t ordinarily make. They can’t initially seem to explain why they are drawn to one another, but they continue to open up bit by bit. Jeyapalan’s characters grow over the course of a single night, remembering some lessons that they simply needed to be reminded of.

‘Stay the Night’ is a forgettable romantic drama

Stay the Night displays a radical sense of trust between its characters, as they very quickly develop a sense of faith in one another. Grace and Carter essentially meet in passing and trust in one another fairly quickly. They’re both having a rough night, but their personalities have a clear impact on their first meeting. Carter is more of an extrovert and enjoys conversation, while Grace is naturally a bit more introverted.

The two core performances hold an immense amount of importance in carrying the “walk-and-talk” genre of filmmaking. Fortunately, Bang and Scarpellino both deliver solid performances. They interpret their individual characters with depth, but they also have the chemistry that keeps the film moving.

However, Jeyapalan’s screenplay instills a romance that is far too subtle and their dramatic journeys aren’t exceedingly captivating. There are some sweet moments, such as when Grace breaks down Carter’s career motivations using his DiSC assessment. However, there aren’t quite enough of these moments. Stay the Night isn’t bad, but its biggest downfall is that it’s forgettable.

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