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A hypnotic thriller.

  • May 14, 2011
*** out of ****

Some people don't watch a film if poor critical reception tells them to avoid it. Me, I don't live like that; I see movies that I want to see, or just about any movie in general. "Stay" is a movie that I wanted to watch, in spite of some mixed reception (with the only really, respectable positive stuff coming out of Ebert, who is to trust, and Travers, who is to trust about 50% of the time). The film is described, by many, as a pretentious mess of a movie that tells a pretentious mess of a story; one dealing with death, insanity, and perception. Alas, after finishing the film, I'm glad I saw it.

Some people hate- and I mean HATE- "Stay" and its ambitious self. It is indeed ambitious, exploring themes that are perhaps too big for a movie this small. It's a tough sell, and readers, do not blame me if you see it and you do not enjoy it. It's a brain-teaser; a flawed one, but in conclusion, a pretty darn good one as well.

A psychiatrist named Sam (Ewen McGregor) starts meeting with a new patient, Henry (Ryan Gosling). The patient is suicidal and depressed; and he also looks like he hasn't showed in ages. His hair is greasy, he's a smoker, and he's as pale as a corpse. Shortly after meeting him, Sam begins to wonder if a line can be drawn between reality and imagination; the dead and the living. He's talking to people who are dead, he's experiencing events that shouldn't be happening, and the viewpoint given (which is Sam's) makes the film feel like an acid trip. And in this case, it's a bad one, but who says imagery can't be haunting?

Let's just say that the entire film leads to one big moment of extreme payoff; one that might piss you off, or might intrigue you, making you want more from this filmmaker and his writing partner. David Benioff, the writer of this film, seems rather intelligent when it comes to this material, even if he doesn't completely perfect his technique. In the end, the reason "Stay" is a good movie, rather than a great one, is a lack of consistency. Sometimes, the film has little moments of boredom, pretention, and nonsense. But then, there are even more moments of art, whimsy, beauty, and intelligence. Those things make up for whatever flaws "Stay" has.

I enjoy films that deal with such themes as death and the afterlife. They can be very interesting. "Stay" does not intend on going deep into the psychology and existence of ghosts. The "ghosts" in this film are not so much spiritual anyway; rather an add-on to the torture of the character Sam. Yet, these ghosts have personalities and histories; as do the characters of the film. The actors portraying these characters are good in the film, although this is far from McGregor or Gosling's best work. And then there's Naomi Watts, who is pretty decent, but the sad thing is that her character just kind of takes up space and adds to the plot, bit-by-bit, but all too slowly. But if you're forgiving, then you won't mind...not too much, at least.

I guess when it comes to the question of "will you like "Stay" or not?", one has to decide; will I be involved? If you are not involved in "Stay", then you will not like it. You will most likely find it to be pretentious and forgettable. I think you know what I think about the film, and I actually was able to enjoy it. "Stay" is a complicated and flawed work of thriller-drama cinematic fiction, but there is intelligence underneath the flaws, the visual design is great, and I conclude that this film is art. Psychological films that take you on an interesting, involving acid trip will never get old; and "Stay" is the rare film to embrace its flaws and absorb beauty, and flawed, but rewarding whimsy. So yes, "Stay" is a recommendation.

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More Stay (2005) reviews
review by . March 29, 2006
posted in Movie Hype
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, …
review by . March 28, 2006
STAY is the epitome of the old cliché "all style and no substance." There is a lot of serious camera trickery, wild editing, nifty camera movies and the like. It's also got lots of moments that are clearly meant to be creepy, or at least heavy with foreshadowing...you just don't know what's being foreshadowed. Directed by Marc Forster, who did both MONSTER'S BALL and FINDING NEVERLAND, STAY misses the mark when it comes to a STORY we can truly care about. Forster has proven himself to be a fine …
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Ryan J. Marshall ()
Ranked #11
It's very likely that the only kind of reviews I'll ever post here are movie reviews. I'm very passionate about film; and at this point, it pretty much controls my life. Film gives us a purpose; … more
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About this movie


Striking images abound in the twisty, surreal thrillerStay: Walruses rubbing up against the glass in an aquarium; a corridor painted neon green; entire crowds composed of twins and triplets; a piano being lifted several stories in the air. The plot is impossible to encapsulate: A psychiatrist named Sam (Ewan McGregor,Trainspotting) takes on a colleague's patient, Henry (Ryan Gosling,The Notebook), who announces his intention to kill himself. As Sam pursues Henry, hoping to save him, the world around them begins to fracture and distort--until the movie's conclusion, which may induce viewers to argue loudly about whether or not it makes sense. ButStay's weakness isn't whether it coheres, but its terrible dialogue. David Lynch movies (a clear influence) work in part because the dialogue is usually simple, even banal, and doesn't compete with the rich chaos of the visual images and narrative turns.Stay's dialogue, full of portents, interferes with an intriguingly corrupt (in the sense that digital information corrupts) storyline and eerily dislocated visuals; try watching it with the sound off. Also featuring Naomi Watts (Mulholland Drive), with brief appearances by Janeane Garofalo (The Minus Man), Bob Hoskins (Mona Lisa), and other familiar faces.--Bret Fetzer
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DVD Release Date: March 28, 2006
Runtime: 99 minutes
Studio: 20th Century Fox

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