Written by Gardner, who co-directed with Christian Stella, “After Midnight” channels that mindset for half a movie, and it can seem relatively narrow. The timing is completed with wacky monologues from his stupid, not-so-helpful friend Wade (Henry Zebrowski), who drinks on the carpet at Hank’s bar, and a cameo appearance by Justin Benson as the old-fashioned cop and Abby’s brother. . . The film is almost so proud of its monster metaphor that it doesn’t interfere; instead, it’s more images of Abby, juxtaposed against Hank’s dirty shield. And despite the gradual physical wear and tear that comes from Gardner’s performance, like every time the monster appears, “After Midnight” seems to be limited and lets itself stay that way. At his worst, he risks losing the viewer with Hank’s shallow sulk and aimless bangs of the monster on the night.
But this isn’t the last we see from Abby, a detail I share so you stick with the movie as well. She reappears as if she came out of nowhere halfway, and soon after both things clear about her disappearance. The scene takes place with them while waiting for the monster, for 13 minutes, sitting on the doorstep on the eve of his 34th birthday. It’s a well-written and emotionally incisive volley of their various grievances, microaggressions that he rightly thinks he can hold onto her, and melancholy clarifications that she retorts about her own desires with her big picture of life, ideas. that he has already looked beyond. It again finds it hard to look her in the eye when she talks to him about serious notions of a future, of perhaps living somewhere other than in the middle of nowhere. This centerpiece creates a complete picture of what really happened in their divergent ten-year relationship; that’s the whole movie with no monster needed. It’s just those live performances, and a camera that penetrates them very, very slowly – the smoothest but effective touch that filmmaking has to get us to pay attention to something that unfolds like a excellent theater.
This is the first passage in which I was deeply invested in “After Midnight”, and it makes the scenes which precede it a little more interesting because it creates an unsuspecting anticipation. For all of Hank’s pink flashbacks, it’s reality check. And for all the ways the Gardner and Stella edit abruptly shakes Hank out of his musings, while also putting half of his film on a monster waiting game, it’s the long hard look. The film evolves with that scene, in a way only skilled storytellers could accomplish, and the ingenuity of directors Gardner and Stella makes the emotions even more intense in what happens next.