the beginning of Marc Forster’s Stay things
don’t seem to add up. Take an opening title sequence
that amounts to one of the most jarringly shot car crash
sequences ever, or so it would seem.
shift to Sam Foster (Ewan McGregor), a psychiatrist who
has taken over a new patient while his colleague Beth (Janine
Garofalo) gets some much needed rest. His new patient is
Henry Letham (Ryan Gosling), a pale and lanky Fine Arts
major who plans to commit suicide in three days, which coincides
with his 21st birthday.
is forced to constantly play the role of therapist, as we
learn that his live-in girlfriend Lila Culpepper (Naomi
Watts) has attempted to take her own life at one point in
their past. She spends a great deal of her time painting,
teaching, and desiring reassurance from Sam.
on the other hand, grows increasingly more intrigued with
Henry when he seemingly predicts a pending hail storm. When
Henry informs Sam of his plan to commit suicide, Sam grows
increasingly distant from Lila, whom he learns has decided
to refrain from taking her medication.
decision doesn’t sit well with Sam, especially in
lieu of Henry’s plans. Lila wishes to meet with Henry
despite Sam’s reluctance, because she feels as though
she can relate to him, and possibly reach him. Lila explains
that when she took an attempt on her life, she took two
razor blades into the bathroom to make sure she didn’t
drop one in the process. She question Sam, “Can you
imagine that? Hating your life so much that you need a backup
Benioff’s script creates a labyrinthine yarn that
buckles and folds over onto itself in numerous ways. Forster’s
direction does nothing but serve the complex maze constructed
by Benioff’s screenplay, adding layer upon layer of
possibility to process and mull over.
and trickery adds visual anomalies which compliment the
lyrical ones constructed within the confines of the story
as Sam’s reality begins to blur inexplicably. Reoccurring
scenarios involving piano movers, a mother and child holding
a balloon, and a waitress named Athena (Elizabeth Reaser)
force Sam to question his own grasp of reality.
may grow confused with the outcome of the film, which is
fully explainable and within the boundaries of reason. During
the screener I attended, the audience left the theater abuzz
with questions and explanations alike.
much further into the plot would do disservice to viewers
who hope to watch the film at all. It isn’t so much
that there is a twist that could be spoiled, but more the
fact that there is a reality the film artistically works
towards establishing throughout the course of the film that
should not be revealed up front.
last film, Finding
Neverland, was a rather uneven film with patches
of brilliance impeded by poor pacing and unneeded moments
of supposed connection. Here, Forster proves that he is
capable of delivering a mesmerizing dreamscape while remaining
concise and on point throughout. We don’t know what
to believe, and our eyes remind us constantly that something
is not adding up yet we cannot help but become engrossed
with the developments at hand.
have been other films released in the past that tackle subjects
similar in nature, one of which remains this critic’s
definitive depiction of celluloid dreamscapes, and yet Stay
manages to work within this subject matter while remaining
fresh and absorbing throughout.