'Stay' *** 051606
(2005) DVD Review

The Work = ***
The movie 'Stay' is one of those surreal, creepy-ish thrillers. It is not the worst I have seen nor is it the best. I have watched the film, enjoyed it, watched all the extra features and now I don’t think I will watch it again (at least not for a long time.) I’m recommending it but I will say you may want to rent it first.

Ewan McGregor stars as Sam Foster, a shrink who is filling in for another that is away. Foster has to deal with a strange patient named Henry (Ryan Gosling.) Right from the get go Henry doesn’t seem to like his replacement therapist and Foster has an uphill battle getting anything out of the guy. When he finally does begin to unravel Henry’s troubles Foster finds himself increasingly involved with the strange young man, who is planning on killing himself in a matter of days.

Reading the above paragraph, 'Stay' sounds like a pretty mundane movie but believe me when I say the movie is constructed in a surprisingly unorthodox manner. Shots blend into one another, the camera will track in on a characters face and when it tracks out the characters is in a completely different location, and a host of other disorienting and hallucinogenic edits and effects are used. The farther the film progresses the stranger it gets and the more dangerous Henry begins to seem. Ultimately Foster has to try and save Henry from himself and not get hurt in the process.

I am struggling to write this review and not give anything away. I suppose I can just say that it is a surreal mystery from director Marc Forster. The only other film by Forster that I have seen is Monsters Ball. I loved the noir-ish look that Forster and cinematographer Roberto Schaefer created for that film (incidentally, the look and performances are what I enjoyed most of Monsters Ball, not so much the story.) Here with 'Stay', Forster and Schaefer create a pretty film that has the look of something constantly in flux. I may not like the look quite as much as Monsters Ball but it is still a very nice looking film.

I would like to say a word or two about the conclusion of the film. This will have major spoilers so be forewarned. If you want to know nothing more about the film skip the past the next two paragraphs. MAJOR SPOILER WARNING***

The end of the film is almost apocalyptic in its flowing conclusion at a crash site on the San Francisco Bridge. One of the strengths of the film is that it comes to its conclusion and it does not feel like a cheap surprise. The opening of the film (and throughout actually) offered brief glimpses of a car crash and at the end the aftermath is shown. Henry was, in fact, the driver and he now lies dying on the road. The passengers of his car, his parents and girlfriend are both dead.

The film would seem to be Henry’s dying visions as he attempts to deal with the guilt of having killed those he loved. Here is what is interesting: that was what I got from the film, a good friend of mine watched the movie and got something completely different out of it. Then after having spoken with him about the film, I thought of a third interpretation that may work. That the movie works and all three of the interpretations could be valid (I of course think my initial one is correct) is part of the strength of Stay. Its ending comes as a conclusion to the story and not a cheap cop out.

DVD = ***

The Look
The film is presented in anamorphic widescreen, in the aspect ratio of 2.15:1. The picture looked very good to my eye. 'Stay' has a distorted color palette and often uses extreme transitions from shot to shot and the transfer presents everything with clarity. I say the above but I should also note that the DVD is a flipper with the above widescreen transfer on the B side and a fullscreen, cropped transfer on the A side. I didn’t even bother to look at the A side transfer.

The Sound
'Stay' has a Dolby Digital 5.1 sound mix that was clear and well mixed. The moody music comes through loud at times but never drowns out the dialogue. I say this is a good mix. There is also a French track and a Spanish track as well as subtitles in English in Spanish.

The Bonus
Bonuses on the DVD are fairly slim. On the A side there is the film’s theatrical trailer and a featurette on the score to the film called, well, 'The Music of Stay'. I must admit that the featurette was actually pretty interesting. It turns out several musicians composed and designed pieces of the score, often distorting sounds to make the music. My comments on the rest of the features will have some spoilers so if you don’t want to see them skip the next paragraph.

On the B side of the DVD are some commentary tracks and a short featurette. The commentaries are the meat of the bonus features. They are presented in two sections of clips of scene specific comments. The first is with Forster and Gosling talking over different scenes together. Their comments, particularly the lethargic sounding Gosling are a bit dry but there is some good bits of info mixed in. The second section has Forster returning to be joined by Schaefer, editor Matt Chesse, and second unit director Kevin Tod Haug. This selection of scenes from the film has a bit more lively of a discussion than the previous but Forster trying to keep the others from revealing intentions in the story gets real old real fast. (I mean come on it is interesting to know, after all it is just what they intended and certainly not the only way the film can be interpreted.) Also the track ends rather abruptly and also has at least one moment where the commentators are cut off when switching scenes. Thankfully both the first and second sections have a “play all” option so you don’t have select each scene individually.

Lastly the DVD has a seven minute featurette called 'Crossing Over'. The featurette has brief interviews with people from a support group made up of those who have had near death experiences. They have a spiritual take on what they have been through and the interviews are very short. So the extras are a bit light and the damned director hinders some of the discussion on the commentaries but there is some good stuff scattered about.

All Together = ***
As I said above, I am recommending this one but you may want to try renting it first. I have no doubt that 'Stay' will have its fans that will love the film and want to own it but it will also turn many people off. Forster has created an entertaining film if not a great one and I am curious to see what he does next. Recommended.


'Stay' Links:


Copyright 2005 - 2012 Nate Bundy. All rights reserved.