The theme of loneliness that informs much of Michael Cristofer’s film and stage work is very much in evidence in “The Night Clerk,” a character-driven crime thriller that favors psychological probing over compelling intrigue.
Tye Sheridan’s Bart Bromley is the titular individual in question — a young man decisively on the autism spectrum who has hidden spy cams in the rooms of the hotel where he works late shifts.
Bart’s voyeurism — shades of “Psycho’s” Norman Bates — actually appears driven by a desire to study social cues from the interactions of the guests rather than sexual gratification.
Things get further complicated when he witnesses a murder in one of the rooms, and the subsequent discovery of the recording devices arouses the suspicions of a methodical detective (John Leguizamo), who schools himself in Asperger’s syndrome over the course of his investigation.
Sheridan gives a rooted if troublingly robotic performance (one that could court controversy among activists). But those around him — especially “Knives Out” sensation Ana de Armas as a potential romantic interest with questionable motives and Helen Hunt as Bart’s fiercely protective mother — provide the necessary dramatic contrast.
Those anticipating something more traditionally calibrated will likely be disappointed with the film’s muted thrills and noncommittal denouement, but the elegantly composed film nevertheless makes for a creepy, contemplative entry in the Cristofer canon.
Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes
Playing: Starts Feb. 21, Laemmle Glendale; also on VOD