"…Just A Little Bit Shorter. But That Wouldn’t Help Either."
Someday someone will truly explore the concept of déjà vu as it relates to the movies. Writers like to toy around with it on a psychological or metaphysical nature but often someone forgot to tell them that we’ve been there and done that. Ever pinpoint where a film is going to end up after only fifteen minutes? How ‘bout just after watching the trailer? Stay is very much like that and would be half as less annoying if the culprits behind it actually took a time out to explore the state of being they have engulfed its characters in. Because at the root of Stay is a very sad story with great potential, but what’s pulsating through its veins is a double-assed Twilight Zone that somehow manages to tell it from the wrong point of view.The film opens with an unexplained car crash. Hint #1. A young man named Henry Letham (Ryan Gosling) sits beside the burning car on the middle of the Brooklyn Bridge while all traffic stands still behind him. Hint #2. He visits psychiatrist Sam Foster (Ewan McGregor) subbing for his normal doctor out from exhaustion (Janeane Garofalo in a truly odd role) and tells him of his plans to kill himself on his 21st birthday, just a few days away. Sam has some experience with suicide, having saved his patient and current girlfriend, Lila (Naomi Watts) from a wrist incident and wants to offer Henry the same fate. That’s when things start getting weird for the doc.
He begins seeing weird connections between himself and his patient; Lila even calls him Henry at one point. He carries around a similar engagement ring to the one Henry was going to propose with until it was too late. Henry claims that Sam’s blind colleague (Bob Hoskins) is his dead father. Sam starts visualizing the same moments over and over again and having conversations with people that others claim have passed on some time ago. And round and round does the merry go.
Sitting there examining Stay you may think Naomi Watts has jumped from one David Lynchian nightmare (Mulholland Drive) to another (Lost Highway), but the more Stay whisks us from reality – it still tries to tell us that we’re in it. The variations on that reality I can’t go into without spoiling what is an obvious revelation anyway (even the damn tagline of the film gives it away.) But who does it give it away for? Other than being intrinsically boring rather than intriguing, Stay completely cheats by following a protagonist who has absolutely zero to do with the subconscious fantasy land we’re witnessing. It’s like following around Danny Aiello’s character in Jacob’s Ladder. You can’t filter one person’s reality into another’s and then pretend like the discoveries made have anything to do with altering the actual experience one character is going through, no matter how many dots you can connect during the final scene.Momentarily intrigued by Marc Forster’s attempt to make us swim inside Crazy Head Syndrome, I was praying he wouldn’t get lost in his own techniques trying to flaunt the mystery for something greater than it is. Truth be told, there is something greater about the mystery, but writer David Benioff spends not a shred of dialogue on exploring the thin line between life and death, not to mention guilt, forgiveness and healing. What seem like metaphors within the film will probably be explained to little effect on the DVD commentary, but while it does dispose of POV clarity – the audience can certainly make our own transition into Henry’s head, wishing that it will all end very soon.