A Canadian feature, Stay the Night, emerged as a hidden gem found at the 2022 SXSW Festival. With incredibly sympathetic leads and a simple story, this is a comfort movie in the making. The ambiance it creates makes it such a special project. With an important message about relationships, there’s a lot in this movie to love.
Stay the Night tells the story of Grace (Andrea Bang), a woman who feels left out of the dating culture characterized by apps and casual hook-ups. She meets Carter Stone (Joe Scarpellino), a hockey player who’s down and out. After their first attempt at a one-night stand goes off the rails, the two spend the night roaming the streets of Toronto, connecting with each other, and pondering the very nature of relationships.
Stay the Night is a who’s who of Canadian film and television. Bang is the star of the acclaimed Canadian TV series Kim’s Convenience. Degrassi: The Next Generation fans will recognize Raymond Ablack who played Sav Bhandari. Here, he’s Grace’s co-worker Roshan, with whom Grace has had a will-they-won’t-they connection. Finally, Humberly González plays Grace’s roommate Joni. She’s played in the Canadian medical drama Nurses as Dr. Ivy Turcotte.
From the beginning, the audience can immediately empathize with Grace. While the story could have gone in an entirely different direction and had Carter be a complete jerk when faced with Grace’s…inexperience, the entire story was handled with compassion. Seeing two people flesh out relationships, and what makes them important, was incredibly relatable. In a world that insists a relationship is the most important aspect of the human experience, it was refreshing to see two people hash out what really matters when striving for this connection.
The development of these characters through the movie was fascinating. Grace’s journey of self-acceptance and self-validation is aspirational. She’s never presented as worthy of mockery. Carter is a professional hockey player, who plays centre. This requires an almost aggression, risk-taking temperament. By nature, however, it’s clear as the movie progresses that he is far more private and analytical off the ice.
The use of space and atmosphere through the movie was enthralling. The use of music, particularly in the bar scene, set the perfect tone. The classic skating scene on an empty ice service was heartwarming. The overall ambiance created, especially through the streets of Toronto, was one the audience could disappear into. Anyone who has spent any time in Toronto will see that that particular feel of Toronto at night was captured beautifully.
With everything to love in this movie, it was by no means perfect. It was poorly lit at times, which made key moments hard to see. The dialogue wasn’t fantastic, even though the actors were certainly more than capable of carrying the story. The ending may ultimately may have not worked for all fans. All in all though, this movie came together in an enjoyable way in spite of its flaws.
Ultimately, Stay the Night was a sweet, sexy story that both encourges the audience to think and to sit back and enjoy. With a tight runtime, viewers may hardly notice any time has passed at all, being so invested in this journey. This is a comfort movie of the best kind, with exactly the right tone. While imperfect, it makes for a lovely story that the audience can get lost in in the best possible way.
Stay the Night had its World Premiere at the 2022 SXSW Festival.