Spoilers need to wake up.
This film is a bit of a hidden gem. Not much people have heard about it, and it’s better when you hear a good review from someone you trust has similar tastes before you see it. That being said, this is not a casual film so you’d better be in the mood for something unconventional. A lot of movies take a lot of effort aspiring to be half of what this movie accomplishes and it’s nice to see it happen so organically. It’s one of those psychological thrillers that doesn’t mind messing up with the timeline, intriguing half of the audience and infuriating and frustrating the other half. I wasn’t sure which half I was until it was all said and done.
Stay (2005) was directed by Marc Forster and written by David Benioff. I’m going to describe the general and traditional interpretation of the story here. Dr. Sam Foster (Ewan McGregor) is meeting a patient he’s taking on behalf of a colleague. We’ve already seen this man, Henry Letham (Ryan Gosling), walking away from a car crash on the Brooklyn Bridge. Henry distrusts Sam and but tells him he hears voices and casually predicts a conversation. He also says it’s going to hail later although it’s a sunny day. When Sam meets his girlfriend Lila (Naomi Watts) it starts to hail. When Sam meets Henry the next day, Henry tells him he’s going to kill himself.
I’m not going into any more plot detail, but this movie has layers upon layers. Lynch comparisons are unavoidable but unlike Lynch films, this movie does not wear its strangeness on its sleeve. Rather that pulling up the weird to the surface, this film prefers not to make it immediately obvious. However you can catch a subtle style preference on the way that things are presented, albeit perhaps not on the first watch. This is one film that benefits from repeated viewing.
Non-linear timelines are a gamble. Some audiences will feel challenged, some will feel insulted. This one of those films which definitely is going for its niche. No explanations are given and plenty is inferred in subtle little details. Whenever you catch the film on a continuity error, it becomes obvious that it was intentionally made. With no obvious resolution to plot points and zero exposition, this is one of those stories open for interpretation.
Aesthetically it is pleasing without pandering. There are clues and cues in the filmography too, with nothing too extravagant. Up front it starts as a normal film, but I can’t help but love how there is no carelessness in it. It is meticulously made, but it doesn’t flaunt nor front. Honestly, you’re bound to find it either provocative or pretentious. You’d better wait to see this film when you’re in the mood for some twisty mind-bending storytelling and are willing to devote your attention.
Strongly recommended to that niche audience that appreciates psychological thrillers and don’t mind twisted timelines. You might find yourself switching between hating it and loving it, which is why I’d advise you wait to be in the mood for it. It’s also one of those movies where reality yields to film language, which will turn off many audiences. It’s also one of those films that benefits from a second viewing. Casual audiences might want to stay away.
That will do for now.