Thursday, October 11, 2007


Year: 2005
Director: Marc Forster
Cast: Ewan McGregor, Naomi Watts, Ryan Gosling, Janeane Garofalo, Bob Hoskins

I didn't know what to expect before I watched this film, other than it having some sort of supernatural element to it. And now that I've seen it, I find that it's far more than that.

Stay is set in New York, though the setting looks unlike it at all. Ewan McGregor plays Dr Sam Foster, a psychiatrist who seems happy doing his job and living with his girlfriend Lila (Naomi Watts). Lila is a former suicide victim who's happy now with Sam. One day, Sam meets his colleague's patient, Henry Letham (Ryan Gosling), who seems disturbed with the way the world is around him. Henry tells Sam that he plans to kill himself in 3 days. Sam starts to worry about him, and tries to find a way to help him.

But first, he has to learn more about Henry, and through his discussions with the young man, Sam learns that his parents died in a car wreck, he likes art by Reveur, an artist who killed himself on his 21st birthday, and he doesn't have a girlfriend, other than liking a girl named Athena, who works at a diner. However, something strange happens to Sam, as he digs deeper into Henry's life, his own grip on reality starts to blur. He begins to hear and see things that are unreal, he experiences dejavu for no reason and soon he can't tell the difference between dreams and reality.

Lila starts to worry about Sam as he races against time to stop Henry from taking his own life. But the more he tries, the more confused and disoriented he becomes, and Henry drifts further and further from the will to live. Both men finally come to a revelation that brings a surprise to the story.

Some have said that this is a lot like David Lynch's style, which was used for Twin Peaks. True, this film relies on surrealism to bring the story across. Director Marc Forster does well in bending the reality and vision of the protagonists in his story. He gets his cinematographer to use unique camera angles and blends one scene to the next seamlessly to distort the audience's view. Watching this is like going down the rabbit hole in Alice's Wonderland. The choice of music is also perfect.

However, Forster relies too much on it in his direction of Stay, especially in the second half. Yes, it is well done. But you can't have too much of a good thing. It affects the storytelling and ends up confusing the audience on which direction the film is actually going. Towards the end, some of the scenes do not really make sense, and you'll be wondering if that really was Forster's intention, to confuse you.

McGregor is convincing enough as a psychiatrist wanting to help his patient, and end up getting more than he bargained for. Watts lends able support as Lila, whose suicidal past is the root of the core of this film. Gosling does much better here than in Fracture, looking very believable as the disturbed Henry. Henry comes across as someone plagued by guilt and death, wanting redemption but too afraid to reach out for it. Gosling brings all that onscreen, and then some.

The ending will be confusing to most people, though I think that one needs to pay close attention throughout the film and deduce the conclusion when you get there. At the end, you'll be wondering if everything you've seen is real. It can be a big payoff, or a real annoyance to you.

Worth checking out, but not completely satisfying. (3.5/5)

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