Stay(2005) is directed by Marc foster, starring Ewan Mcgregor, Naomi Watts, and Ryan Gosling. You can watch the trailer by clicking the image to your right.
Stay is a story of a psychologist (Ewan McGregor) trying to unravel the twisted trauma of a suicidal young man (Ryan Gosling). All the while trying to convince him that life is worth living. Stay is a mystery wrapped in a dream-like enigma.
Right from the start, Stay demands our attention. You are compelled to take in every visual clue given, to try and make sense of it all. This is because you get the feeling that something isn’t right, the visual pieces do not add up. The transitions from one shot to the other are swift and transient, a visual magic so beautifully executed by the director Mark Foster.
If you pay close attention to the movie, you’ll probably feel like you’ve seen a character before; there are also a few instances where you see doubles or multiples of the same person, all this seems odd at first, but there are many ways to interpret this phenomenon. Another odd thing you notice about the movie is that the characters do not evolve, in a sense they feel unreal or non human. As they are bounded by the specific roles they are given to play.
Enter Henry’s Mind…
My take on the movie is that it is entirely based on Henry’s Stream of consciousness. All the characters that surround him in the last scene are given a role by Henry. They are the manifestations of various aspects of Henry’s character. Beth, who was the first person at the site of the accident, franticly kept repeating these lines, “I didn’t move him, I know you’re not supposed to move them”.
Her erratic behaviour probably led Henry to give her the role of a troubled psychiatrist whom he was supposed to meet at the start of the movie but couldn’t and instead met Dr. Sam who was filling in for Dr. Beth. Dr. Sam coincidentally was the first person to come to Henry’s aid at the accident scene. Now, this is me taking the liberty to stray with my interpretation and imagination. From what I can tell, Henry probably entered into this dream when he heard Dr. Sam tell Nurse Lila that the others in the car didn’t make it. So that’s probably why he struggles with the decision to live or die after having killed the people he loved.
In case you were wondering, “Why is Sam’s trousers too short?” well the reason could be because when Henry first sees Sam,(that is in the last scene; in his dying moments) he sees him from that particularly low angle distorting his perspective of Sam’s pants and jacket. Many shots of the movie have that awkward low tilted shot, giving us more of Henry’s perspective. You’ll also notice how some of the same actors keep appearing with different roles, which are somehow connected with what they do or say in Henry’s dying moments, like the old man instructing the lifting of the piano, who later opens the door to Henry’s apartment or the old man who mutters, “he’s not gonna make it” and the mom and the kid with the balloon. You’ll also see many doubles and triples, easily noticed in the scene where the students exit the lecture hall; in a way indicating how limited Henry’s mind is in recreating multiple unique characters for his story.
Another thing one notices is that you often hear sounds in the background totally unrelated to events happening in the movie, such as the sound of cars screeching, or muffled voices, and traffic – those are instances where real world events leak into Henry’s dream, probably the reasons why he insists to Laila and Dr.Sam that he keeps hearing voices.
And what’s with the endless spiralling staircases? I believe that this is the most obvious visual clue telling us that whatever is happening in the movie is being played out in a dream like fashion; of dreams being within dreams, as one struggles to wake up from one only to end up in another dream. This thought of mine was reinforced by the particular scene which seemed to play, repeat, the scene where Athena, Henry’s girlfriend is re-enacting a scene from hamlet, taking on the role of Ophelia (who is doomed to die), but who would rather be in Hamlet’s shoes (debating death, as Henry is). HAMLET: “O God, I could be bounded in a nut shell and count myself a king of infinite space, were it not that I have bad dreams…” lots of speculations but it does add up.
The entire movie might also have some deep philosophical connotations of which I am no expert at interpreting, but something I thought I’d mention, so maybe someone could pick up on that and spin the movie differently. Maybe someone more familiar with Buddhism, and the world being an illusion and all that… and link why Sam’s fortune cookie says, “Your troubles will cease and fortune will smile upon you.”
I understand my review is really sketchy, as it was hurried but this movie is really hard to structure, so take what you get from the movie and you’re most welcome to leave me some feedback.