Bart Bromley is an Aspie; he’ll tell you as much in one of his many long-winded, one-sided “conversations.” Bart (Tye Sheridan) lives with his mother. Well, not so much “with” as very much separately, but in her basement. She (Helen Hunt) leaves his meals on the top stair, and he eats them alone, while watching his filmed-in-secret videos, studying and imitating the people he tapes. Wanting to be like them, or at least pretend more convincingly.
Bart is a hotel night clerk, which, not coincidentally, is a great place to hide a bunch of cameras and really get into voyeurism for real. He doesn’t mean to do anything bad, it’s just that observing people is how he learns to live among them. Inevitably (it seems), one night he checks in a woman who is then murdered in her hotel room. Bart is at home, watching it happen. He sprints back to work and arrives just in time for the detective (John Leguizamo) to find him covered in blood, standing over her body. Not a good look, and Bart’s demeanor doesn’t exactly exude innocence. Transferred to another hotel, he checks in Andrea (Ana de Armas), an even more beguiling guest, one who he can actually talk to. So it kinda sucks when it seems she might end up the next victim.
Sheridan and de Armas are actually quite good in this, which is frustrating because the movie itself is…not. Sheridan’s put in the work, and his performance is convincing, even if I’m not thrilled by how his Asperger’s is portrayed. The real problem is that for a thriller – for a murder mystery! – there are no thrills whatsoever. Not even a frisson. And even though there’s a murderer unaccounted for, we don’t really care. There’s no tension, no real worry. The detective is the most chill, low-key cop you’ve ever met, the mother is strangely hands-off, Bart’s boss is surprisingly accommodating, and Andrea is an understanding and receptive romantic interest. Never has being a murder suspect been so easy breezy!
Writer-director Michael Cristofer doesn’t find anything interesting beyond his basic premise, and he fails to make a significant connection with his audience.