A browbeaten bellboy, Billy (David Lind), finds himself swept up in an evening of rule-breaking and wandering beyond his comfort zone when a young traveler, Gwen (Rebecca Steele), comes into his life. Her bag missing, Gwen is set on finding it wherever unlikely it could be in the hotel, such as at the closed bar, or pool, and Billy is tasked with making sure she finds it.
Bank Tangjaitrong’s Night Porter is a pleasant film, the kind where two unlikely strangers meet and become quick friends, changing each other’s lives in the process. Or, at least, makes for an interesting anecdote when nothing actually changes in their lives (“You did WHAT at a hotel overnight!?!”).
To that end, you get the feeling Billy will get the most out of the encounter. Miserable and passive in the face of life, Gwen practically drags him through the hotel initially, with each new stop an opportunity for him to shake some of that malaise off and remember who he is. As the night moves on, he slowly becomes a more interesting person, visually signified as his bellboy attire is discarded. Gwen remains the overt catalyst, though what she’s doing for Billy is serving to help her through her own issues too.
And to the film’s credit, it doesn’t fall back entirely on the “weird and whimsical woman changes the awkward man’s life” stereotype we’ve seen played out over the years. Sure, Gwen is impulsive, but she’s also not offering salvation via an active battle against convention. She’s more like that person who’s hit a wall in their life, and they’re going to do something, anything, to change that. If she has someone along for the trip, all the better. In that way, it makes the film more of a balance of two characters growing, as opposed to one becoming that unobtainable dream that irrationally motivates the other.
Night Porter is, again, a pleasant film. Not overly dramatic or angsty, not cloyingly sentimental or whimsical, it’s just a comfortable experience to watch these two get to know each other overnight. The film has a bit of a classical feel too, but I’m chalking that up to the grand old hotel, the score and the antiquated attire Billy is forced to wear. It makes the film feel outside of its time, but in an appealing way.
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