Midnight at the Paradise
Midnight At The Paradise is a romantic comedy, and is the feature film directorial debut of actor-director Vanessa Matsui. The film premiered in December 2022, at the Bampf World Media Festival. It had its Toronto premiere in April 2023, at the Paradise Theatre. It was the last performance by the late Kenneth Welsh.
The film's leads, played by Allan Hawco and Liane Balaban, saw the film Breathless at the Paradise Theatre, when they were teenagers, and meet again, twenty years later, when the theatre screens the film again.
Writer-Producer Bill Robertson said he was inspired to use the real life cinema in the film he was writing when he cycled past it while it was undergoing renovations in 2019. Other highly recognizable Toronto locations are used, and the film has been described as "a love letter to Toronto". Another reviewer called it "a sweet love letter to the power of films". Other film reviewers compared the film's focus on relationships with Richard Linklater's Before trilogy and Sarah Polley's Take this Waltz. Robertson said that the renovation of the theatre, and the pair meeting there, is symbolic of their renewed romantic relationship. Robertson said he had Balaban in mind to play the film's female lead, even when he began writing the script, because they had worked together before.
The film was in production for six years.
Matsui, who is good friends with Balaban, was originally being considered to play a role in the film, before Robertson asked her to direct. She says she didn't feel ready for this first job as a director, but friends convinced her it was a great opportunity.
Robertson said the pre-existing friendship between Balaban and Matsui helped Balaban feel safe filming emotionally trying scenes. Balaban's character copes with her renewed feelings for Hawco's character, her feelings about her troubled marriage, and the loss she is already feeling for her beloved father, who is dying of cancer.
- Corey Atad. ‘Midnight At The Paradise’ Trailer: A Night At A Toronto Movie Theatre Changes The Lives Of Two Ex-Lovers, ET Canada, 2023-04-13. Retrieved on 2023-05-18. “The movie is set at Toronto’s historic Paradise Theatre on Bloor Street West. Robertson says the theatre wasn’t originally part of the story, but that changed when he saw the theatre undergoing renovations while cycling by one day.”
- Jen McNeely. Vanessa Matsui’s Toronto: 26 Spaces Through a Filmmaker’s Eyes, She does the city, 2023-04-21. Retrieved on 2023-05-18. “The Paradise Theatre plays a key role in the story, but there are many treasured spots that also make an appearance. The Drake Hotel, Union Station, Osteria Rialto, Toronto’s Financial District and the Centre for Social Innovation are just some of the locations where drama unfolds. For locals, seeing Toronto captured on film is a real joy to watch.”
- Victoria Ahearn. WFF ’22: Laying the foundation for Midnight at the Paradise, Playback magazine, 2022-11-30. Retrieved on 2023-05-18. “A core element of the film is a love of cinema and classic movies, so shooting in the city’s Regent cinema and Paradise Theatre while they were suffering from pandemic closures added a new layer of potency to the story. Robertson says the goal is to release the film in cinemas just like those.”
- 'MIDNIGHT AT THE PARADISE' REVIEW, Earth to films, 2023-04-21. Retrieved on 2023-05-18. “In addition to being a great piece on complicated relationship statuses, “Midnight at the Paradise” is a sweet love letter to the power of films. From the backdrop of saving the Paradise theatre to the use of Godard’s “Breathless” as a compatibility test for the characters, there is so much love around this medium of storytelling and its power of bringing people together.”
- Rachel West. MIDNIGHT AT THE PARADISE (WFF2022) – Review by Rachel West, Alliance of Woman Film Journalists, 2022-12-12. Retrieved on 2023-05-18. “With a script written by Bill Robertson, it is no surprise the film has drawn comparisons to Richard Linklater’s Before trilogy for its relationship conversations and to Sarah Polley’s quiet Toronto marriage drama Take This Waltz.”