You might expect something a little more impressive from the combined talents of director Marc Forster (Monster's Ball), screenwriter David Benioff (25th Hour), and actors as strong as Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts, but Stay, their "therapist in crisis" psycho-thriller, is pretty darn dry throughout ... plus, as well-directed as the thing is, there's a permeating air of "seen this, done that" that infects the narrative, which means that the allegedly "illuminating" finale seems more like a requirement than a revelation.
McGregor plays Sam Foster, new shrink to the casually suicidal Henry Letham (Ryan Gosling), and devoted boyfriend to suicide survivor Lila (Watts). When Henry off-handedly mentions that he plans to off himself come Saturday midnight, Dr. Foster's first reaction is to call in the authorities and have Henry sequestered for his own well-being. But Henry manages to display a certain knack for, well, predicting future events, a skill that has Dr. Foster stymied, dazed, and confused.
Needless to say, the deeper the doctor digs into his patient's puckered past, the more confusing the story becomes. But if you're an attentive moviewatcher who catches all the clues, then you're halfway to predicting the Act III revelations by halfway through Act II.
Forster seems to know that Benioff's story is planning to dock at a familiar pier, so he does all he can to infuse Stay with nifty camera swings, flashy scene transitions, and an overall air of dream-like sedateness. Unfortunately, this quiet and serene approach, combined with the contorted narrative and familiar trappings, combine to make Stay feel a whole lot like a cinematic sleeping pill. Which is a shame, really, because there are some really fine performances in the film, and the story, while certainly not all that unique, does manage to pull you in just enough to wonder what's going to happen next. Ultimately, though, "what's going to happen next," is usually something pretty obvious, familiar, or predictable.
Pretty to look at, tough to follow, and, ultimately, difficult to swallow, Stay certainly isn't a bad film ... but it sure as heck isn't one you'll be raving about anytime soon.
Video: Fox delivers Stay in your choice of full screen (side A) or anamrphic widescreen (1.85:1) on side B. The B-side transfer is a pretty impressive affair; I've got better things to do than watch movies in fullscreen. I'm sure you understand.
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 English, DD 2.0 Spanish, or DD 2.0 French. Optional subtitles are available in English and Spanish.
A collection of scene-specific commentary sections are offered here. Marc Forster and Ryan Gosling share their thoughts over five different scenes, which you can enjoy in one big block or in an individual fashion. Forster returns with editor Matt Chesse, assistant director Kevin Tod Haug, and cinematographer Roberto Schaefer, and together the quartet of filmmakers chat over a selection of seven sequences.
Departing Visions is a 7-minute featurette that focuses on a collection of Near Death Experience survivors, which is actually kind of a Stay spoiler, if you think about it.
On the fullscreen side there's an 8-minute featurette entitled The Music of Stay, which gives you a solid glimpse at the scoring process, and the original theatrical trailer.
Stylish, sedate, and just engaging enough to earn a rent it recommendation, Stay represents the combined efforts of a lot of filmmakers I really dig -- which makes me wish the flick were a little more successful. My opinion of the flick went up just a bit after my second Stay, but I'm pretty sure the 3 out of 5 star-rating is the absolute ceiling for a flick like this.