Stay (2005)

DVD Cover (Twentieth Century Fox)
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Overall Rating 63%
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Ranked #1,772
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A thought-provoking and haunting exploration of how reality and dream-states may combine to form complex interactions. The line between the imagination and reality blurs when an accomplished Psychiatrist takes on a patient that appears to be suicidal. --IMDb
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Review by bluemeanie
Added: October 26, 2005
Marc Forster is an interesting director. He first erupted into Hollywood with his critically lauded "Monster's Ball", which raked up a Best Actress Oscar for Halle Berry and turned him into one of the hottest directors working in the business. He followed that up with the even more critically and commercially successful "Finding Neverland", which catapulted him into the stratosphere. Now comes "Stay", a huge departure for the director. For starters, 20th Century Fox decided to simply dump this film into theatres in the middle of October, with little publicity and about as much interest in the film as Scarlett Johansson in Scientology. In essence, they shat all over this one. This confuses me for a couple of reasons, the most obvious being that this film was directed by Marc Forster, a director whose work has churned out award after award and nomination after nomination, not to mention both of his most previous films did considerable business at the box office. So, why dump this film into the hands of an unknowing audience? "Stay" was one of those films that you either love or you hate. If you love it, thank Marc Forster. If you hate it, there is really no one to blame -- it just wasn't your cup of tea. This film was, basically, "Soul Survivors" if "Soul Survivors" had a decent script, better actors, and amazing direction. This film was everything that film knew it could not be.

In yet another peculiar career choice, Ewan McGregor stars as Dr. Sam Foster, a very young psychiatrist who finds himself taking over patients for his 'exhausted' friend and associate Beth (Janeane Garofalo). His first patient is a college student named Henry Letham (Ryan Gosling), who seems about as troubled as a kid can be, and even tells Sam that he is going to kill himself at midnight in four days. This sends Sam into a frenzy. His girlfriend Lila (Naomi Watts) once tried to kill herself, and he is especially sensitive to matters of suicide, so he decides to invest all of his available energy into trying to help Henry. He soon, however, starts questioning his own sanity, seeing as how Henry can, seemingly, predict the future. After Sam meets Henry's deceased mother and is attacked by a deceased canine, his perceptions of fantasy and reality blur even further. The film, essentially, follows Sam as he tries to find out the truth behind Henry and his abilities, and Henry as he searches for reasons to stay alive. "Stay" treats McGregor and Gosling like the same person.

What makes this film so spectacular is the direction. Most of the tricks are done in the editing room and by the D.O.P., but I suspect Forster was likely the primary ringleader of the final product. Shots blend into other shots, character appears on the same screen twice, and we get this surreal feeling of a constant, seamless dream state, that culminates with the surprise ending that is not totally unexpected, but is handled marvelously. There is also much use of the first-person steady cam, which was also used in the recent "The Exorcism of Emily Rose". Forster uses it in a different way, and in more abundance. It works. Every camera angle and every editing technique works. "Stay" was like watching a first time filmmaker discover this new method of film-making, except it was done by an expert filmmaker who still has a sense of adventure -- that makes the juice that much sweeter. Forster has an uncanny ability to translate a script to screen, and "Stay" also proves that he is always willing to venture into new and foreign territory. This is nothing like the work he has given us previously, and that makes it all the more exciting.

As far as the performances go, most of the actors here give better performances than most would have given, considering the subject matter. Credit Forster for this also in that the material is only as good as the person spearheading it. Ewan McGregor continues to prove his acting abilities in one bizarre film choice after another, an energetic turn here as the doctor trying to get to the bottom of things. The ever growing Ryan Gosling, as Henry Letham, doesn't stray to far from the types of roles he has chosen in the past, but why stray from a winning ticket? Naomi Watts is her ever luminous self, and Bob Hoskins and Kate Burton turn in the best performances, as Henry's formerly living mother and father, especially the underrated Kate Burton. But, as much as I enjoyed the performances, they are certainly not what you will be walking out of the theatre remembering. You'll be remembering the scenes when all of the people in the background are in twos and three, dressed identically. You will remember all of the 'double' references in the film, especially at the end, on the Brooklyn Bridge. You will be remembering the inventive editing techniques that turn "Stay" into something of a streaming storybook on the screen.

This was, by no means, the best film I have seen this year, primarily because I was so wrapped up in the visuals and the performances that I almost forgot about the weak script, and it was weaker than needed. The more and more I think about the film, the more and more I love it, but the more I come to the conclusion that there is just not enough there. The film runs for about ninety minutes and Forster crams too much in there, though what he does cram is astonishing. "Stay" was a great film and an entertaining and intriguing experience, but most people will probably just not get into it. "Soul Survivors" was the worst film ever made, for many terrible reasons, and "Stay" shows what kind of film that was never going to be, no matter how hard they tried. "Stay" takes a premise that is not entirely original, but turns it into something unique through Marc Forster and through the editing and the photography. It was a singular experience, and something you should check out. I can assure you, this is a place you will definitely want to 'stay'.

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