In the game of love there is a tendency to view everything through the rose-coloured glasses of forever. Unfortunately, the happily ever after of fairy tales is not always in the cards people are dealt. As Renuka Jeyapalan’s charming romantic drama Stay the Night details, sometimes it is those one-time encounters that can leave the biggest impact on the heart.
Passed up for a promotion at work, due to her perceived closed-off nature, Grace (Andrea Bang, Kim’s Convenience) feels like it is time to break out of her shell; however, cracking that tough and tightly guarded exterior is easier said than done. Unlike her roommate Joni (Humberly González), who is unafraid to hook up with guys she has only known for a few hours, the reserved Grace finds it hard to connect with others even on a causal level.
Wearing her high standards in men like a shield of armour against potential heartbreak, she keeps those who she is interested in, like co-worker Roshan (Raymond Ablack), at arm’s length. When her attempts to find a suitable suitor at a club result in spilled drinks and further isolation, she decides that her best shot at a one-night stand might be Carter Stone (Joe Scarpellino), a guy who seems to be having an equally rough night. Unbeknownst to Grace, Carter is an NHL player who has just found out that he is being demoted to the minors.
While their attempt at hooking up crashes and burns in embarrassing fashion, the two find themselves roaming the streets of Toronto conversing about everything from modern dating to their fears of stepping out of their comfort zones.
Excelling in the awkwardness of the spaces where things are left unsaid, Jeyapalan’s film is one of those romances where the seed of love is planted and allowed to slowly blossom. Stay the Night takes its time in growing the chemistry between the two leads. While physical attraction is immediately apparent, the film is far more interested in the ways Grace and Carter learn about each other and themselves over the course of a night.
Jeyapalan find plenty of interesting fruit to pluck from the various branches of the pair’s conversations. As her characters drift from flirtation to irritation to genuine curiosity, their individual struggles do not seem as far apart as they initially appear. By keeping their interaction grounded, rather than going well-worn genre tropes, the central characters feel very relatable. One does not need to be an athlete to understand Carter’s worries about potentially losing the only job he is good at or Grace’s insecurities when it comes to fully putting her true self out there in every aspect of her life.
Using several iconic Toronto streets and landmarks as the backdrop for this joint journey towards self discovery, Jeyapalan’s camera makes the city feel like an important character in the film. While certain venues provide for some amusing moments, such as a joke about men not shutting up when it comes to hockey talk, there are times when the locations are a little too on the nose. Take for example the pit stop at Grace’s office where she uses her HR skills, including the Myers Briggs Type Indicator, to help Carter better understand himself and the fact that he might be playing the wrong position.
While these occasional moments feel a little too cutesy and convenient for an otherwise sharp script that frequently bucks convention, Jayapalan’s film glides over them thanks to the strong performances from Andrea Bang and Joe Scarpellino in the lead roles. Already proving she had wonderful dramatic chops in 2019’s Luce, Bang delivers another nicely layered turn here. She brings just the right amount of biting delivery and vulnerability to ensure that Grace’s stubbornness always remains endearing. Scarpellino nicely offsets this by making Carter more than the handsome jock. His delicate blend of ego and genuine earnestness makes the character intriguing in ways that one would not initially expect.
Forging its own interesting path, one where conversations prove to be the best aphrodisiac of all, Stay the Night is a charming romance that understands the true power of connection, even if it is only for a night.
Stay the Night opens in theatres on Friday