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. Written by
STAY is a strange bird of a movie, one that you must be rested and in the mood for to watch, and one that asks that you forget the usual linear storyline and stay alert every minute. Directed by Marc Forster (Monster Ball, Finding Neverland, and the upcoming The Kite Runner) and based on a story and screenplay by David Benioff (Troy, The 25th Hour, and the upcoming The Kite Runner!), STAY is more a mind-bending visual excursion that explores some dark psychological questions dealing with life, death, suicide, occult, and a mélange of all of these.
The opening of the film is a twisted visual experience that has to do with a car crashing on a bridge, fire, and a body - all given during the opening credits. We then meet psychiatrist Dr. Sam Foster (Ewan McGregor) as he encounters a college student patient Henry Lethem (Ryan Gosling) whom he is seeing for his colleague, the emotionally exhausted Dr. Beth Levy (Janeane Garofalo). Hesitant to work with a 'substitute psychiatrist' Henry eventually tells Sam he is planning to commit suicide that Saturday at midnight, a re-enactment of his painter idol's absurd life. Sam's artist girlfriend Lila (Naomi Watts) was herself a suicide attempt rescued by Sam and offers her help in dealing with Sam's patient. Sam also gleans advice from his mentor, the blind Dr Patterson (Bob Hoskins) and after numerous attempts to contact his associate Beth for information, Sam strikes out on his own in an attempt to understand Henry before he destroys himself. He looks up Henry's mother (Kate Burton) whom Henry says is dead, discovers when Henry meets Dr Patterson that Henry claims Patterson is his father and is also dead. Ultimately Sam engages the services of a mental institution run by Dr Ren (BD Wong) and gains the promise that the institution will put a hold on Henry so that he will be unable to commit suicide.
In the midst of this race Sam's world begins to crumble, people don't make sense, stories clash, and Sam tumbles around in a state closely resembling madness until the final frames when the entire situation of the film is made clear. Nothing is as it appears when dealing with the thread that separates life and death. The script is clumsy, the camera work is distractingly of kilter, little gimmicks are used to the extreme, and the tiny roles of supporting characters hardly merit the gifted actors such as Hoskins, Burton, and Garofalo. Ryan Gosling is again tossed into a role that is starchy and unidimensional and despite his fine work his character remains aloof. McGregor and Watts do the best they can with the script but end up becoming tropes wandering in from other similar stories.
So why give the film 8/10 score? Because despite all the defects it does engage the mind and forces the viewer to set aside the general principles of understanding and just release the mind to a crazy ride. That is healthy film making and deserves attention. Grady Harp
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