'Stay' Review: An Elegant Suicide is the Ultimate Work of Art
My first film for Reader Submission Month is Stay, submitted to us by my friend Crystal Estrada. It stars Ryan Gosling, Ewan McGregor, and Naomi Watts, all of whom are entangled in a web of confusion and terror. There are twists and turns along the way adding to the uncertain nature of the film and making it feel similar in tone to a David Lynch piece.
The plot follows Dr. Sam Foster, played by the always talented McGregor, as he struggles to diagnose and help Henry Letham, played by Gosling, a disturbed man on the cusp of his 21st birthday. Along with McGregor and Gosling, Naomi Watts plays Lila Culpepper, Foster's art teacher, girlfriend, and emotional rock throughout the film. Henry has set a deadline for himself to commit suicide, ending on his 21st birthday, and he lets Sam know this during their second appointment, setting the film in motion. As the film progresses, Sam must try and determine why Henry is going to kill himself, as well as try to stop him from going through with it.
On the surface the film is a straightforward thriller, but once the film finally gets going, around about thirty minutes in, it takes on a different feel. As I previously mentioned, Marc Forster draws influence from directors such as David Lynch when it comes to utilizing an unconventional take on a conventional story. There are times in the film where the line is blurred between reality and the dream-world, causing the viewer to question their own sanity. In one particular scene, McGregor's character repeatedly enters his apartment, throwing the concept of reality in to question.
The performances in the film are the real standout however, particularly Gosling and McGregor. I have admittedly had very little exposure to either of them, with my only experience with McGregor coming from the Star Wars prequels and with Gosling in The Notebook. This film is the best thing that I've seen either of them in, particularly due to the believability they bring to both characters. McGregor is excellent as a man who is slowly losing his mind, unable to cope with the world around him falling apart, while Gosling plays the artistic pariah to the tee. Their performances complement one another well, and whenever they are on screen together you believe that McGregor truly wants to help Gosling. The real surprise of the film was Bob Hoskins, who played the blind Dr. Leon Patterson. Hoskins was one of Hollywood's greatest character actors, and he always delivered nuanced performances in any film that he was in. He appears throughout the film, and his final dialogue with McGregor is one of the best parts of the movie, both heartbreaking and triumphant at the same time.
It's hard to talk about this without revealing too much of the later plot of the film. Yes, there is a twist of sorts at the end, one that came under fire by critics when the film was originally released. I personally enjoyed the twist ending, finding it to be the most heartbreaking part of the film, along with working expertly in the context of the larger plot. During the film there are hints of what the true nature of the plot is, and once the truth is revealed, one realizes the movie requires a second viewing to catch all of the subtle hints peppered throughout.
Stay is a movie that I most likely would never have watched due to my preconceived notions of the two main actors in the film. I was pleasantly surprised that the film actually has something interesting to say on the notion of being human and what it's like to be alive, along with what it's like to die. I'm kind of bummed that this film didn't make one of the two weekly Kulturecasts as it would be a fun film to dissect and break down on a deeper level. I thoroughly enjoyed it, especially the heartbreaking ending, which truly elevates the film from good to great.
Final Say: Watch It