Movie Review by Clyde Baehr
Starring: Ewan McGregor, Naomi Watts, Ryan Gosling, Janeane Garofalo
Director: Marc Forster
The creators of psychological thriller STAY are a collection of very talented people. Director Marc Forster has previously given us the taut race drama MONSTER’S BALL and the fantastical biopic FINDING NEVERLAND, while writer David Benioff is responsible for Spike Lee’s excellent THE 25TH HOUR. And there is no need to remind anyone of McGregor and Watts achievements.
Set in present day New York, Sam Foster (McGregor) is a well off psychiatrist who inherits the patients of his colleague Dr Levy (Jeneane Garofalo) after she suffers a breakdown. One such patient is the weird and sulky Henry (Gosling) who is threatening to kill himself in three days. Sam has little time to stop him and to do so he must come to terms with the recent attempted suicide of girlfriend Lila (Watts).
The film looks great, with clever digital dissolve morphing from one scene to the next but as McGregor’s accent begins to crack it becomes clear that while director Marc Forster has been attempting his Michel Gondry visuals the performance and script have been allowed to slide. As Sam’s life is turned upside down and the world around him inside out you get the impression he has hardly noticed. There is no panic or mania, only mild confusion.
Throughout there are jaunty angles of taps running, surreal hellish subway journeys, predictable answer phone messages, chess games with old mentors, spiral staircases and every other cliche associated with the genre. Yet despite the weirdness you find yourself thinking, how can a doctor be so dedicated to one patient yet neglect all his other whackos, does he not answer to superiors, and why is he wearing pedal pushers? When plot devises rely on Sam obtaining answers to simple questions even Henry seems perturbed, asking “Haven’t you read my file?” and when Sam consults Lila as to his best course of action his qualifications as a psychiatrist come into question.
Marc Forster’s intentions are good and it’s a daring idea, just not thought out clearly. What may intentionally be clues in the narrative only feel like plagiarism so when Lila says “There’s so much beauty.” it’s one echo from another film too many. STAY is trying too hard to be strange, attempting to align itself with mind benders like PI, MULHOLAND DRIVE and FIGHT CLUB and borrowing much from them. In reality it has more in common with THE MOTHMAN PROPHESIES and THE CELL though its slow, vague twist might even alienate fans of these. That is if they still care by then.