Stay Movie Review

I don't see dead people, and, more than likely, I never will. Maybe one day, when I die, I'll see plenty of them but while I am of this earth, it's a no-go. This is not to say people don't see spirits, ghosts, and specters; walk down any street in Manhattan and you're likely to see a woman telling you she can see them and hold pretty strong conversation with them. Hollywood saw this and also saw dollar signs. Blame M. Night Shyamalan for most of this. He made a great movie and has spawned legions of gutter-sludge rip-offs. Once in awhile, however, we get an arty riff on this formula. The last one was Jonathan Glazer's haunting Birth, and now we have Marc Forster's hypnotic Stay.

So, this suicidal college student walks into a psychiatrist's office... no, seriously. Sam (Ewan McGregor) has the misfortune of substituting for a few sessions for a colleague (Janeane Garofalo) when she gets a little loopy with the drugs. Her first patient, and seemingly only patient, is Henry Letham (Ryan Gosling). On only their second meeting, Henry announces that he is going to kill himself in three days, at midnight. Sam spends the rest of his time, divided between his ex-patient/girlfriend (Naomi Watts) and trying to figure out why Henry wants to kill himself. And don't forget Henry's dead parents (Bob Hoskins and Kate Burton) who show up in the real world. Describing past that would be like trying to explain a Lynch film (notably Lost Highway and Mulholland Drive), and no one should have these secrets ruined.

The premise sounds melodramatic and short on ideas, and admittedly those were my first thoughts. But director Marc Forster, after the powerhouse Monster's Ball, last year's classy Finding Neverland, and Stay, is on a roll the likes of which we haven't seen in a long time, turning in three startlingly different films directed with the same deft attentiveness and nuanced understanding of character. Unlike Wes Anderson or David Gordon Green, Forster's style is much more subtle and underplayed, paying more attention to shadows, reflections and lights than pastels or jumpy narratives. He's the real thing, a class-A director.

Give special attention to the script, easily one of the year's best, by David Benioff. In a film that begs to be sappy, with dead parents and suicidal tendencies, Benioff finds the twists and turns of the mind much more interesting than the vocal sentiments. The dialogue is crisper than a brand-new dollar bill, giving the actors a lot to play with. McGregor has his juiciest role since Big Fish and plays it with expert resolve. Watch the emotional complexity that Naomi Watts brings to the troubled girlfriend who must watch the madness on the peripheral plain. However, it's Gosling who steals the show, looking charmingly uneasy, digging deep into Henry's fractured mind. Forster works wonders with the actors, keeping a film that is trippier than anything to come out so far this year, strangely grounded in the humanity of the situation. Films like this don't allow you to anticipate what's coming, deciding to instead sneak into your body and astound you with the widest range of emotions. You won't see it coming either.

But if you don't stay, try the door.


sarahann's picture


I understand everything you wrote on the review of Stay,but explain the movie to me. I couldn't understand what was real and what wasn't. Was he already dead? I think the movie was fantastic and the actors couldn't have preformed better.Ryan Gosling was amazing. What a talented actor. But please will someone explain this, or is it left to us to have our own take on it. Whatever the case I'll be talking about this one for a while.

7 years 9 months ago
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Does It Matter?'s picture

Does It Matter?

Oh my. I do not understand - did the person who reviewed the film interpret it or just writes something knowing nothing about the movie?"Stay" is one of the best movies I've ever seen. Why? Because I do understand the main thought of the story. It is not about depressed student. It is not about weird and stupid psychiatrist and his emo girlfriend. And it is not about the ghosts and stuff!"Stay" is trying to show and explain the phenomenon that most of us experience in our lives. Have you ever been thinking about this reality as some kind of illusion, dream? There are too many coincidences, strange feelings like "I know it, I've been there before" or "It isn't real".It just happens. It is a fact.Despite I'm a psychology student and I do not believe in ghosts and other s**t, I really experience this live as an illusion. It's just too unreal. And everyone who's developing his consciousness and lives with eyes wide opened knows about it.The movie is too deep and its sense it too important to be reviewed the way you can read above.

4 years 8 months ago
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Stay Rating

" Excellent "

Rating: R, 2005


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