The 2001 film, Late One Night, takes place in a diner. As you can probably guess from the title, it also takes place late one night. It’s so late that there are only five people in the diner. There’s a cook. There’s three men who work at a local factory, the main one of which is named Larry (Brad Heller). And then, there’s a quiet guy (John Gaffga) sitting at the counter. Though the guy never introduces himself, Larry decides to call him Jesus.
To say that Larry is a bit of an obnoxious character really doesn’t do justice to just how grating a human being Larry is. At work, Larry sexually harasses the only woman working at the factory. In the diner, he sexually harasses a waitress as her shift ends. When he sees the quiet man sitting at the counter, Larry starts to harass him. Larry is angry. Larry, as we learn, was abandoned by his father, raised by an unstable mother, and he spent several years in jail before ending up at a go-nowhere job at a bottling factory. Larry has his reasons but that doesn’t make him any more likable.
In fact, Larry is such a jerk that you kind of wonder why the cook even allows him to hang out in the diner. From the dialogue, it becomes clear that Larry has a long history of harassing people. At one point, Larry does point out that he spends a lot of money at the diner but you have to consider how many people probably avoid the place whenever they see Larry and his co-workers sitting in their booth. No matter how much money Larry spends, it seems likely that he keeps even more money out. Really, the cook should call the cops whenever he sees Larry and maybe slap with him a trespassing charge. I imagine Larry probably isn’t even a good tipper.
Anyway, on this night, Larry is obsessed with the quiet stranger. When the stranger briefly goes into the restroom, Larry searches the stranger’s jacket and finds a pamphlet about Christianity. When the stranger returns, he’s been given the nickname “Jesus” and he now has to deal with Larry mocking him by asking, “Am I going to Hell when I die?” “Jesus” controls his temper, no matter how much he is taunted.
If you’ve seen any other films from director Dave Christiano, you might be excused for expecting “Jesus” to reveal himself to actually be Jesus. In this case, though, I think he’s simply meant to be a believer who simply wants to eat in peace. For that matter, you might also expect the film to end with Larry converting but instead, he’s as confused and angry at the end of this short film as he was at the beginning. Particularly when compared to the films that he was making in the 80s and the 90s, Late One Night shows a certain dramatic restraint on the part of Christiano. The main theme, of course, still seems to be that non-believers are going to suffer forever but, for once, Christiano doesn’t seem to be asking the viewer to take any pleasure out of that.
That said, I do have to say that, in college, I spent a lot of time in a lot of late night diners and I never once saw anyone get into the type of random verbal altercation that Larry gets into in this film. I kind of suspect that might not happen in the real world as often as it happens in the movies.