Stay (2005) (R) ★★½

Review Date: October 22nd, 2005

Part thriller, part mind-bending absurdity, Stay will definitely leave you scratching your head. But try to stay until the end--it might make up for the rest of it.


On the surface, Stay seems to be a straightforward psychological drama about a psychiatrist, Sam Foster (Ewan McGregor), who is trying to keep a mysterious patient, Henry (Ryan Gosling), from killing himself. But the deeper we get into it, the decidedly weirder it gets. And not necessarily in a good way. Sam and Henry seemed to be inexplicably connected. While his girlfriend and former patient Lila (Naomi Watts) looks haplessly on, Sam’s lightly held grip on the rational world begins to melt away. He can no longer figure out what is true and what is happening only in his head--all climaxing in a titular confrontation between life and death. Twilight Zone’s Rod Serling would have loved this one.


Although he was surprisingly good as the romantic lead in The Notebook, the usually somber Gosling is best known for playing quiet psychotics in such films as The United States of Leland and Murder By Numbers. In Stay, he’s back to his old tricks as the suicidal Henry. Pale, with mournful eyes and a perpetual cigarette in his mouth, Henry is certainly a tortured soul looking for some relief. On the flip side, Watts brightens the otherwise dismal surroundings as Lila, but there’s also a tinge of sadness about her. The only weak link is McGregor. He can’t quite pull off playing the dedicated psychiatrist slowly losing his mind--but the Scottish actor sure has mastered the American accent (ditto for the Australian Watts).


Director Marc Forster (Monsters Ball, Finding Neverland) seems a bit out of his league with this jumbled-up, hard-to-understand psychological fare. Granted, the visuals are arresting. Forster strives to create a world which, at first, seems real but then, little by little, turns into a wildly shifting dreamscape in which scenes blend into one another seamlessly. The real problem here is the script by David Benioff (25th Hour). It tries to say, “Look how clever!” by throwing you for loop after loop--except the loops don’t make much sense. You eventually stop saying, "What the hell?" and start to get a pretty good idea how Stay is going to end up. And when the final twist is handed down, it’s surprisingly not all that disappointing.