Prayer Focus
Movie Review

Stay

MPAA Rating: R for language and some disturbing images

Reviewed by: Misty Wagner
CONTRIBUTOR

Very Offensive
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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Adults
Genre:
Supernatural Thriller
Year of Release:
2005
USA Release:
October 21, 2005
Featuring: Ewan McGregor, Naomi Watts, Ryan Gosling, Bob Hoskins, Janeane Garofalo
Director: Marc Forster
Producer: Eric Kopeloff, Tom Lassally, Bill Carraro
Distributor: 20th Century Fox
Copyright, 20th Century Fox
Copyright, 20th Century Fox
Copyright, 20th Century Fox
Copyright, 20th Century Fox
Relevant Issues
Copyright, 20th Century Fox

What does the Bible say about suicide? Answer

If a Christian commits suicide, will they go to Heaven? Answer

Are there biblical examples of depression and how to deal with it? Answer

Are you feeling depressed? There are answers. What should a Christian do if overwhelmed with depression? Answer

If God knows I am hurting, why doesn’t He help me?

Between the worlds of the living and the dead there is a place you’re not supposed to stay.

Here’s what the distributor says about their film: “A reality-bending thriller about a psychologist whose suicidal client makes bizarre predictions that, to the psychologist’s mounting terror, begin to come true. The shrink must race against time to save everything he loves before it disappears.”

“Your troubles will cease and fortune will smile upon you…”

With just over a week until Halloween, the horror movies seem to be popping up all over the big screen. We seem to be seeing an “awakening” of interest in that genre of film. Perhaps it is the maturity of special affects and how they seem to have transformed into something far more magical and believable… Perhaps it was merely the reinvention of the horror flick, by more psychological films with their silent plot twists and unexpected revelations.

“Stay” plays out like a film which was born out of the inspiration of the psychological “horror” flick, but lost pretty much everything that seemed to make any sense, along the way.

Directed by Marc Forster (“Monster’s Ball”, “Finding Neverland”), I expected “Stay” to be an engaging film which toyed with my mind, as well as touching my emotions. It was clear from the way in which the trailer of the film was edited, that they seemed to be pushing this film as a psychological horror/thriller, and for that reason, initially, I know that many looking for that will be disappointed.

“Stay” begins with Henry (Ryan Gosling) sitting in the middle of a two lane stretch of the Brooklyn Bridge, beside a car which is engulfed in flames. There is no explanation, no emergency crews, just his character thoughtfully sitting there with a stream of backed-up traffic silently behind him, their headlights illuminating the numbness he seems to wear on his face.

We are then introduced to the character of Sam (played by Ewan McGregor). It is very obvious, from our first introduction to Sam, that he has a heavy past involving his girlfriend Lila (Naomi Watts). The film takes great care in setting up the personalities of each of these two main characters, and I felt that was an objective which the viewer could appreciate.

As Henry and Sam meet, we learn that Sam is a psychiatrist filling in for Henry’s regular psychiatrist (played, very briefly, yet dramatically by Janeane Gorofalo). It is from their first introduction this film keeps viewer’s engaged, as if it were a puzzle. One doesn’t have to look far to see things which seem out of place—such as whispers in the background, bizarre weather predictions, distinct similarities between the two characters or multiple items.

In one scene, in which Sam meets Henry outside of his art class, it is very hard to miss that many of the other students in the class seemed to be multiplied by three. This happens several other times as well, in different scenes and scenarios. None of the character’s seem to notice, which makes it all the more intriguing. Exact same dialogues and scenarios repeat themselves on many occasions, and as the film progresses, it becomes more common then not for Sam’s character to have “déjà vu” moments. “Clues” (such as the quote at the beginning of this review) are presented with such implied significance that many viewers may find themselves clinging to them in an effort to figure out this mystery. I am truly grieved to say the film doesn’t really do much more then continue to throw clues and leave viewers guessing until a bizarre ending escorts them into credit roll.

There are three aspects of this film which make it incredibly watchable, despite the fact that it falls short of explanation and reason. The first of these is the way in which it is filmed. The cinematography is fresh and amazing, often taking risks which pay off quite well with breathtaking shots and angles. To some it may seem a bit too “artsy,” but for the most part it was daring and worthwhile.

Second, the acting is well done, despite the oddness of the storyline, which gets quite random at times. All the characters play brilliantly, especially Ryan Gosling (Henry) and Naomi Watts.

Third is the soundtrack/score; it could not have been more perfectly selected for this film, and there are a few tracks which seem to carry an entire scene.

With these three aspects working so well though, it makes it that much more disappointing that the film doesn’t really seem to work. At times, I got the impression that perhaps it was trying to rely more on its artistic aspirations than on a solid script or plot destination.

Though not a horror movie, Stay’s theme is quite dark and heavy throughout and does have several visual moments of blood/trauma/violence. There is much talk of suicide throughout the film; Lila’s character had attempted suicide in the past and survived. There are a few scenes in which the scars on her wrists are visible, and dialogue recalls the events surrounding her attempt.

Henry’s character also announces plans of suicide, and this is a theme carried on throughout the film. The talk of suicide is never painted in a good light; it is depicted as something very bleak and desperate, even, at one point, being referenced to as a way to Hell. Even though this film, in no way promotes suicide, this may be a subject which is offensive to some, and I do caution you, it is a strong and dominant theme.

The language is strong, including several misuses of the Lord’s name.

One scene is filmed in a strip club. It’s an odd scene that I have mixed emotions about, as there are angles of it filmed beautifully in which the audience has an opportunity to really connect with the character of Henry, to really identify with his heartache and brokenness. Somehow though, the background of the exotic dancers seems to make it awkward and very much out of place.

There is an accident scene which is a bit graphic and several other scenes where blood and gaping wounds are visible.

In a nutshell, if you enjoy the work which goes into the making of a film—enjoy the camera shots, creative sets and even the smallest of details—then it’s a visually-beautiful film to see. If you are a fan of any of the actors, I recommend their fine performances, but, honestly, I have to recommend it as a film worth waiting to rent. I imagine “Stay” could manage to touch a few people, promote endless amounts of conversation and speculative theories and have some viewers eager to watch again (myself included), but it is not a film which many will walk away from excited about what they have just seen or even feeling like fortune was smiling at all.

Violence: Heavy / Profanity: Heavy / Sex/Nudity: Heavy

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.

Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Negative—People don’t understand this movie because they are looking at it as a psychological thriller, which it does indeed pretend to be at first, but soon evolves into a bizarre allegory. (Spoilers below!!!) At first I thought that Sam was “projecting” himself into Henry who obviously was either not real or already dead. By the end of the movie, however, Henry was an allegory. He teaches the blind man to see (literally), but figuratively to see that life is worth living. When the final scene pops up, nothing that had just happened in the movie really happened at all! It was all what COULD be. Henry taught Sam that life was precious and not worth throwing away. We are to think that Sam and Laila might have a real life this time around, rather than the depressing suicidal melancholy which they had through the entire movie.

Personally, I cannot recommend it because it has nothing of Christ in it. It is a sad commentary on how the pagan man really views life. For them, life is misery, and we try to drown that misery out. The movie wants us to see something beyond the misery, but without Christ, the movie (and its makers) really see no answer, just some ambiguous hope of what life MIGHT be.
My Ratings: Offensive / 3
—David, Ph.D., age 38
Movie Critics
…is not made skillfully enough to deliver the suspense we require…
—Boston Globe, Wesley Morris
…Admirably imaginative but not always satisfying or compelling…
—Chicago Tribune, Michael Wilmington
…Solid cast can’t rescue convoluted film… more bewildering than entertaining…[2½/4]
—The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Mack Bates
…It’s a riddle wrapped in a dreamy enigma that will turn on some moviegoers and easily turn off others…
—Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Bob Longino
…all style, no substance… makes you want to leave…[1/4]
—Detroit Free Press, Terry Lawson