For the past few years, numerous movies have taken pleasure in screwingwith our conception of reality. As if borne out of some post-millennial fearof our world, since 2000 we’ve had the likes of Memento, Vanilla Sky, DonnieDarko and The Jacket all feeding into this growing paranoia. Now, five yearsinto this spree of movies, comes Stay.
Sam Foster (Ewan McGregor) is an Ivy League professor who takes on thecase of troubled student Henry (Ryan Gosling), who tells Foster he is goingto commit suicide on Saturday at midnight. Unable to keep him in forprolonged observation Foster begins a search for Henry in order to stop hisprophecy from becoming true. Along the way, strange events start to occur.Foster finds a man who Henry claims to be his father. The only problem beingthat Henry’s father is dead. The further Foster goes, the stranger thingsget.
Stay comes from Marc Forster, one of the most talented and daringdirectors working in Hollywood today. Unlike many, he doesn’t tie himselfdown to one genre or one style of direction. His first breakout movie wasthe gritty 2001 drama Monster’s Ball, a raw powerful film which garnered anOscar for Halle Berry. Next up was the whimsical fantasy biopic FindingNeverland and now comes Stay, a trippy reality-bending thriller. Oh and justto make sure he’s covered all bases, there’s a Will Ferrell comedy comingout next year.
In fact, his direction is Stay’s strongest point. The film looksincredible. Forster enjoys confusing us and there are some wonderfultransitions throughout. There is a brilliant scene in a college buildingwhere everyone in the background appears to be walking in groups ofidentical threesomes and there is a confrontation near the end on a bridgethat is one of the most beautiful scenes of the year. Taken on a purelyvisceral level, Stay is hard to beat.
However, it’s a shame that the script couldn’t really match the visuals.The film struggles with maintaining a constant sense of suspense and thereare a few too many ‘weird’, unexplained scenes which after awhile only serveto infuriate rather than intrigue. The main narrative problem is the finaltwist. Yes, unsurprisingly in a film such as this there is a twist. It’sactually not a bad twist, it’s just we’ve seen it so many times before. It’srevealed in a clumsy manner and the film cheats by only giving us the cluesafter we know the secret.
McGregor delivers a good, if unspectacular performance while Ryan Goslingand Naomi Watts, as McGregor’s depressive girlfriend, do excellent work.Stay may have seemed a lot fresher if it had been released at the beginningof the influx of these kind of movies, but now its surprises seemstale. Although it is worth noting that for a film which had such aninfuriating conclusion, I have an urge to watch it again. It’s one of thosemovies which gets better the more you remember it. It may also be the mostvisually stunning film of the year.