Check Out This New Rom-com Set in Mexico City

'At Midnight' weaves an unlikely love story between a movie star and a hotel manager

At a time when we arguably need fairy tale romances more than ever, At Midnight takes boy and girl to Mexico, where their meet-cute happens over some spilled towels

Movie star Sophie (Top Gun: Maverick’s Monica Barbaro) is in town filming superhero blockbuster Super Society 3, her co-star and boyfriend of five years (Workaholics’ Anders Holm) ends up cheating on her. Luckily, the hotel’s ambitious manager Alejandro (Rock of Ages’ Diego Boneta) is around to take her mind off this mess—if she can get over the fact that, while delivering towels to her room, he’s already seen her in her birthday suit.  

When it comes to onscreen romance, the line between cheesy and cute is all about the chemistry, according to director Jonah Feingold. The connection between Boneta, who also serves as producer of the film, and the actresses auditioning for the female lead was achieved through chemistry reads. “Chemistry, it’s what makes rom-coms,” says Feingold. “When you look at all the great romantic comedies that we’ve idolized growing up, what do you remember the most? It’s the chemistry.”  

At MidnightParamount+Unfortunately, due to COVID and geography, Feingold was unable to get the two leads in the same room. “They read on Zoom together, which was obviously very scary,” recalls Feingold. “We were all just silent as we watched them read this scene. Monica was the first read of the day, and I wrote down in my notes, ‘This is it.’ We recorded it, and I actually cut their chemistry read together and put some music under it, because our composer had started working on the music. And we had this amazing scene between them, quite similar to the end [result]. We were like, ‘OK, they’re adorable together.’ ”  

For Boneta, the film is a long time coming, as it has been five years in the making. “After producing Luis Miguel, I started my own production company with my best friend and my sister called Three Amigos, and this was the first project that we developed,” he says. Intent on setting the movie in Mexico, Boneta also wanted to hearken back to his favourite films of the ’90s. “We were like, there’s a cool opportunity here,” he says. “We wanted it to be an international love story, shot in Mexico, something that was very simple but also kind of had a classic vibe. And that’s when Jonah came along.” 

At MidnightParamount+The director of Dating & New York came onboard, soon realizing that Boneta was his ticket to anything he wanted to shoot in Mexico, whether it was the various locations around the Riviera Maya near Cancún or within Mexico City. “It speaks to Diego’s incredible producing ability, that, when we were in Mexico City, these were phone calls we were able to make and bring a level of artistry to the film that I don’t think many other movies get,” he says. “We had so many different terrains, a beautiful place, a beautiful hotel too. If you are going to Cancún anytime soon, just tell him to cast it.”  

Setting the action in Mexico allowed for the location to be a character, the way Boneta had experienced through films like Midnight in Paris and Vicky Cristina Barcelona. “It’s a love letter to Mexico, which I think is very cool,” he says. “I haven’t seen a Hollywood rom-com shot in Mexico or in Mexico City, where Mexico is a character in the film, as well.” But not everyone was convinced that the beauty of Mexico was what drew Boneta to the location. “An unnamed Paramount exec told me, ‘Diego, you can’t go to Mexico and just have tequila every day with your best friends,’ ” he recalls. “That’s exactly what we did.”  

At MidnightParamount+What came out of their time together—tequila and all—was beneficial for the film they were making. “The first time we met in person, [Diego] just showed us all a lovely time,” says Barbaro. “We had amazing dinners and went to the anthropology museum and got to know each other really well, with and without tequila. We had this four-and-a-half-hour lunch at Contramar, where we talked about the script and the Whitney Cummings character was pretty much developed out of that lunch. They really invited me to be a part of the creative process as well, not just as friends, which was a fantastic bonus.” 

For Boneta, this rom-com is just the beginning of his plan to marry his own interests within film and television. “When I did the first season of Luis Miguel, I hadn’t done anything in Spanish in 10 years. So, acting in Spanish was a bit different. But since then, my dream has been to marry both worlds and tell Latin stories that are universal,” he explains. “Being able to do that with my best friend and my sister is a dream come true.”  

At Midnight debuts Friday, Feb. 10 on Paramount+