Stay, the movie

stay the movie

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. 

Advertisements

41 thoughts on “Stay, the movie

  1. Man, I’ve read your words and i’ve seen the movie three times. It happened just as you say. The first time I saw it, I stay like 45 minutes sitting on the chair of the theather, thinking and making coments with my friends of what’s the meaning of the movie was. I got the mesage that the hole movie is was Henry’s mind makes of the seconds his dying. In my country they name the movie “el umbral”, which means a space between two worlds.

    The second time I saw the movie I was more excited that the first time, Many details that i hadn’t understood, they came out clean.

    I have only one demand. Do you know why Lila tried to kill herself in this fantasy world?, is she the opposite of Henry, a person who tried to die, but realized that the world is “too dammed beatufull”. Man i guess I just understand her character.

    Ok, well Hope you read this

    Bye and congratulations for such a good resume.

  2. hey..thnx…4 helpin…i hav seen da movie..hmm..i think dis was my 4th time..so now i had 2 find out wat was dere actually..bt..i cudn’t undertstand da movie at all..nd had my own views…bt after readin urs…i gt it…yeah..i must hav thot dat way…newayz…it ws a gr8 help…nd now i got da movie fully…thnx 2 ya!….its actually vry nice movie….i njoi it evrytime i c…nd m full in2 da movie wen i c it…nd like try 2 relate it wid my life….bt…its like dat….nd thnx again..!

  3. Yea i figured out the majority of it the first time i saw it, but the second time i realized the rest. I think your analysis was quite eloquent. He decides to live right? I thought the movie was great and your observations are good as well.

  4. thank you so much for explaining this movie!!! i did not get it at all. and it really bothered me that Sam’s pants were really short. lol. well thanks again now i know that i didnt waste two hours.

    • eternal sunshine of the spotless mind leaves you thinking…the end is a bit more obvious, but its the type of movie that the more times you watch it, the more you catch. i’ve watched it well over 20 times and every time i do there’s a small little detail that i never noticed the time before.
      the fountain is also one that really makes you think.

    • waking life, mememto, machinist, unknown, fight club, vanilla sky… most of these movies are a bit disturbing and i didn’t really enjoy them as much as i did ‘stay’, expect for ‘waking life,’ that movie is a genius, not very complicated but gets u thinking – tons of ideas ;D

      • the animated film ‘Mary and max’, got me thinking too. it’s a story about 2 pen pals, living on two different continents in the 70’s; a lil girl named mary and an older guy called max.
        The film deals with Asperger Syndrome, and beautifully projects a growing friendship between two social misfits.
        overall the movie has lots of subtle humour but also has its dark moments too.
        a must see, you won’t regret it 🙂

  5. OMG!!! thank u so much for the explanation!!!
    i have to admit i didnt understand it at all. But now i do and its awesoem!!thx!!!

  6. Hi, well I’ve just seen this movie for the fifth or sixth time, and I somewhat agree with you (that the movie is henry’s subconscious after the accident that kills his girlfriend and parents), but there are a number of things that still don’t make sense- For instance, when sam calls lila at the end of the movie, and says, “I just want you to know that I love you”, and she looks at the paintings in her studio (that say henry latham) and she freaks out and goes down the stairs, and is locked in- is her intention to chase after Sam?

    Anyhow, yours is the easiest explanation, although I flirted with the thought that possibly we are on another plane/existance, and everyone is dead there, including Lila (who sam failed to save from suicide),beth has already overdosed (not saved by sam either), Leon and Henrys mother obviously, Athena, the kid with the balloon, everyone is already dead- leaving the question, is sam dead too? or is he in some kind of limbo left to run around and save everyone? (like lila, beth and henry), and keeps failing to do so??

    then I had thoughts that perhaps henry and sam are that artist (is it tristan? french, anyhow), and that they/he keeps reliving a hell after commiting suicide as that artist, cursed to keep reliving and dying, blah blah you get the picture.

    anyhow, I love this movie… just for the fact that it’s made me think so very much, and the cinematography is effin fantastic, the subtle clues (or are they?) throughout. I watched it once just to watch for the subtleties, like, did you know that Henry’s bridge painting is shown throughout the movie? it’s in sam and lila’s bedroom at the beginning, in the bookstore, in lila’s studio, etc There are also pictures of the walrus’ that sam and henry see at the aquarium in lila’s studios too. And I wish to god I could understand why the halls of the college are filled with twins and triplets (which is what got me thinking that perhaps henry’s life was a duplicate of sam’s and the french artist). Urk!

    Maybe the movie was just all about the line about the world being an illusion, who knows? I wish the director would explain now, Now that the movie has been out for years!

    • I agree with you about the paintings in the apartment. I was wondering how they got in there myself. I thought that Sam was actually Henery.. for 1 Henery states that he is the only one that can help him (in other words, help himself) 2 Henery’s dad says I always thought you had brown eyes, 3 the paintings, 4 He has the same engagement ring, 5 He says I was in the car right behind you.

      What was really confusing to me at the end… Sam and Lila had never met.

      The other psychiatrist was traumatized after witnessing the accident.

  7. a friend of mine totally agrees with your opinion but for me the movie shows that we can never be certain that something it’s real or not. the best line to see that it’s by henry’s father that says “the world is an illusion”. from my point of view, we can’t know what’s real or not because you don’t have enough facts to prove it so. for instance. henry meets sam who is a pschyciatrist but in the end of the movie sam is a doctor. Lila is a painter but in the end a nurse. all the characters have different characteristics from the beggining to the end. i think that the movie is about how life could be different if we chose to live it in another way. think of another thing. all the characters that we meet at the movie are people that henry met in his life. it could be a last dream of his but it could also be a whole different life for him. i mean that we come and go again and again and in our lifes we are gonna meet again the exact same people but they could have different places in it. like his father who doesn’t recognizes him if after henry cured him from his blindness. but then again i even doubt my self by thinking hot sam met henry’s mother and even his dog olive who was dead when henry was 12….also the sheriff said to sam tha henry’s mother was dead in a car accident along her husband nut he didn’t mention anything about henry….still i’m writing down my ideas and i haven’t come to a conclusion…the only thing i gotta to say is that i loved this movie ant that for me it’s like a poem….you can see it from a lot points of view and anyone understands it the way he wants….
    P.S.: i’m sorry if i made any mistakes using the language but i wanted to share my ideas!!!!

  8. I love this movie, one of my favorites, and its great to see people that are also trying to figure it out, its like you see soemthing more each time you watch it, and are left with even more questions! I also wish the director/writer would explain the stuff like sam’s pants, no socks, the triplets, the paintings, all that stuff. So glad I found this site to help with some of this. I also wondered at the end this last time I watched it…if it was really Sam that was having the flashbacks…it seems that when the kid dies, he is the one that flashes back to everyone. first time i saw it that way…but not really sure that is it either.

    • Its the first time i have ever read an explanation for any movie..but since stay is one of my favorites i read this one..though i find your view acceptable, i dont think really disecting a movie is a must..i’m blisssful just staying mezmerised by all ythe deatailing and the questions

  9. I think the telling part of this movie that confims your theory are when Henry’s father says, “the world is just an illusion”, and where Sam says, “if this world’s just your dream then we’re all in it”. Even the name of the movie hints to it. The whole movie is what’s going on inside Henry’s head as Sam and Lyla try to get him to “stay” with them as they wait for help. I’m thinking he does die and he knows he will given that he has a timeline on his life and that he decides to kill himself at the end of his dreamworld. That could also be interpreted as the timeline on his dreamworld and killing himself in it could be his decision to leave that world a reenter the concious world. Both are feasible. This was an expertly made movie, though, and will certainly find its way into my collection. I was introduced to it by a friend without any explaination and came out floored by how complex it was. Definitely a great flick.

  10. Great Movie, Had me racking my brain from the beginning. I have somewhat of a different point of view though. I do agree that this is a dream world, that is for sure. What I dont entirely agree with is that it is Henry’s. I believe this is all based on Sam. I feel that Sam is meant to have telepathic capability and it comes to him in dream like episodes. Sam can somewhat see the future but it is always blurred and not 100% accurate but the outcome is always the same. From the beginning it was Sam having dreams of the baby crying (at the very end there is a baby crying in the background throughout the dying scene). Sam dreams of his words he speaks to Henry at his last moments (in the message on Henry’s answering machine). He dreams of him shining the light in Henrys face at the crash well before it happens. Throughout the whole movie Sam see’s paintings of the brooklyn bridge which is where the accident occurs. What really puts this theory all in place is at the very end just before Sam asks Lila to get a cup of coffee, he has flashbacks of his ‘dream’ with him and her together and happy and that is when he asks her to get coffee as if he somewhat knew what the outcome would be.

  11. I read that he was to eager do a Neighbours appearence lmao. Not sure how true this is, has anyone else heard it? There’s a part of me that kind of wishes this is not true lol.

  12. jesus thank you. i’ve been trying to make more sence of the roles being played, the reasons for the doubled roles for three and a half years…finally!
    Thanks again
    -Em blaze

  13. Thanks very much. You cleared up a lot of things for me. I watched Stay today, and I sat there at the end very puzzled. I’ve been thinking about it all day & decided to google the meaning. You helped a lot. Thank you!

  14. ON MY OWN OPINION,THE FILM(AND NOT THE ACTIONS AND IMMAGES OF THE FILM)IS TRYING TO UNDERLINE ONLY ONE FACT.
    TIME HAS MORE DIMENSIONS THAN SPACE-IT IS NOT LINEAR BUT RETURNS AS FRACTAL CONFUSION.
    YOU SAY THAT THE EVENTS ARE HAPPENING IN HENRY’S MIND NAD HE GIVE DIFFERENT ROLES TO EVERYONE HE SEES IN HIS AGONY.
    I SAY THAT EVERYONE THAT HE SEES IN HIS AGONY TRIES TO GIVE ONLY ONE ROLE TO HENRY.
    AND DO NOT SAY BULLSHIT ABOUT BUDISM, BECAUSE WE ALL ARE SONS OF THE MIGHTY GOD.
    I AM SORRY FOR MY ENGLISH.IT IS NOT SO GOOD HEEE…….

      • I HAVE SEEN THIS MOVIE AGAIN(AT LEAST 4 TIMES)AND I THOUGHT THAT MAYBE IT HAS A BIBLICAL REFERENCE:I AM TALKING ABOUT HOW HENRY’S FATHER IS HEALED FROM HIS BLINDNESS.(ONLY JEZUS CHRIST CAN MAKE THAT).BESIDES,WE HAVE TO NOTICE HENRY’S SENSE OF GUILTY(NOT ONLY FOR WHAT HE THINK HE DID)AND HIS REGRETS.
        PRAYING FOR FORGIVNESS IS OUR TRUE KEY TO THE TRUTH.
        FORGIVE ME,FORGIVE ME,FORGIVE ME,FORGIVE ME,FORGIVE ME,FORGIVE ME,FORGIVE ME,FORGIVE ME,FORGIVE ME,FORGIVE ME,FORGIVE ME,FORGIVE ME,…………………
        ANYWAY,I ADMIT THAT YOUR INTERPRETATION IS CORRECT.

  15. I loved this movie.But i’m still confused.Probably i’m not so smart to understand all the enigma.The oniric atmosphere made me recall Mullholand Drive by Lynch.Recurrent dejà vu with the kid and the balloon,the piano…such like dreams.The soundtrack is good, specially a Massive Attack tune. Thanx a lot to try to explain the intricateness of the movie.I’ll watch again and again and again….

  16. OK – a little late watching this one, but finally got it via Netflix. I liked the movie, but didn’t ‘get it’ at the end. I like movies like this, but also like loose ends to be tied up before the end…like in the Sixth Sense! One of my all-time favorites. Due to that aspect, which many like, this one fell short for me…I like to think during the movie, but I don’t like feeling stupid when it is over – if at the end, I STILL don’t get it.

    Anyhow – the explanations above help. After I saw it the first time, I was wondering if everything that happened before the end of the movie may have been what would or could have happened if Henry had not committed suicide and/or all the characters had made different choices, like Sam becoming a medical doctor vs. a physiciatrist and Lila becoming a nurse vs. a suicidal survivor & painter.

    For all of us, there are still a lot of questions…too many for me, but I guess that is what makes this movie interesting and unique. I am not knocking the movie for using artistic license and being creative – just a tad too much for my taste. I just like to finally ‘get it’ at the end of my movies…but that, I guess, is a ‘me’ problem! Good movie!

  17. I liked this explanation that I found on another site:

    A different point of view, 17 November 2005

    Author: joely2112 from Australia

    *** This review may contain spoilers ***

    There is such a debate about this movie, on side arguing that you can “get it” if you are intelligent enough and the other arguing there is nothing to “get.” Why don’t you all stop worrying about whether or not you get it or not. Movies are art, and art is open to different interpretations. There is no right or wrong, and to steal a quote that I loved, (I can’t remember exactly “Bad Art is even better because it documents human failure”) sorry that quote wasn’t really necessary and didn’t fit my point exactly but I was just dying to use it.

    Anyway my main interpretation of the movie is to show the intricacies of the human brain. A man went through a serious shock/trauma, going unconscious, allowing his subconscious to come out and play, the movie demonstrates the power of the subconscious, pulling out stored tidbits of information from the brain received by the human senses. The movie documents not the man’s physical struggle to stay alive but his mental one. With his brain setting up a maze of obstacles to get past to regain consciousness/life. In this maze of his mind I think his actual self represents death or the coming of death, and he is in the form of the psychologist (mcgregor) trying to work his way through the maze to fight to stay alive. I think this is why we saw the movie makes such a point of showing us that they are the same person (in his mind) I think he has chosen mcgreggor as his self because in his subconscious he knows that in the real life mcgreggor is trying to save him. As for the powers, it is his mind of course he is able to control what is happening. Leaving one end untangled, the de ja vu with mcgregor and watts at the end. To go with the flow of this interpretation, that the movie is demonstrating the power of the human mind, perhaps subconsciously the mans dream was able to affect the other people involved, through psychic powers, I’m not sure on this, this is a tough cookie.

    Of course another interpretation of this movie could possibly be two parrelel worlds colliding through an event (car crash) I don’t know for sure I can only make my own interpretations, and I like this movie because of the different ways it can be interpreted, unlike most Hollywood movies, which leave no room for the imagination. This is art, good art: 8/10

    I agree!

  18. Oh man! So I fell in love with this movie at first watch in the theaters and have re watched it now about 4times I loved your synopsis. I also wanted to add the little things I noticed like the “burning boy,” story Leon begins to tell Sam in their game of chess right before Henry walks in. Its a reference to frued and his study of dreams. Two, Henry’s (dead) mother’s outfit is so not in this era of the movie which has a definite modern appearance her outfit reaks of the artist Vermeer (the girl with the pearl earring) this artist was know as the master of composition…and very little is known about him, which would represent the artist in which Henry is! Oh, such a well done film. Every angle is has so many layers and the music is one of my favorite parts! I can’t get enough of this movie i just want more and more of it!

    • hey nice insight into reading the movie. I’ve just started taking a class on film theory at my university so hopefully i’ll see new things when i revisit this film in future 🙂

    • I just watched this movie again, and as with pervious times, watched it a second time, back to back. This is an incredible movie. So well done, so multi layered. Each time I come away with something I missed before.
      On one of the copies I have rented there was a Bonus segment on the cinematography of Roberto Schaefer for this film which was outstanding.

  19. Thank God!I thought I was the only idiot that had to google the meaning of this movie.really enjoyed the movie-and now see the true genius of the writer/director after your explanation.what’s the deal with all the tile throughout the movie?symbolism of a hospital or morg maybe-maybe I am a genius-haha!thanks for explaining.

  20. In the last scenes, Sam’s girlfriend looked over several paintings by Henry. Can’t understand what the significance is. Why would Sam have Henry’s paintings?

  21. ok i understood that Henry was dreaming a sittouetion between the reality and his imagination but i cannot understund why the doctor ask for laila to take a coffe when he remember some previus sceens with them….who it can be in Henry dream????

  22. OK,SO IT’S LIKE THAT….HENRY IS ON HIS DEATH BAD,AND THE WHOLE MOVIE IS ABOUT WHAT’S GOING ON IN HIS HEAD,SO FAR SO GOOD(HO SOOOO GOOOOOD =) NOW,YALL ASK QUESTIONS ABOUT THE PEOPLES IN THE MOVIE,WELL IT’S PRETTY SIMPLE,HENRY HAD A LIFE BEFORE THE ACCIDENT,SO HE REMMEMBER THE PEOPLES IN HIS LIFE AND ILLUSTRATES THEYRE IMAGE ON THE PIPS NEAR HIM ON HIS LAST MOMENT’S =)

    THINK ABOUT IT…..IT MAKES SENSE=)

  23. I have a much better understanding of this film after reading these reply’s. Why didn’t anyone mention all the yellow in the movie. Once I started watching it I kept expect it to have some deep meaning.

  24. Hi there I think that your comments and thoughts on the movie ar.e pretty good. Mostly what I thought. Although I did think that the Henry morphed in and out of being Sam. The short trousers. Watching his girfriend act. Going to his gfs dancing. I also think the endless staircase was Henrys life was it going to go on or was he going to live. I’m no expert and again I mostly agreed with everything you thought. The people round him where definetly being given roles to play in his dying moments maybe as life flashed before him. All the best. Great Movie I thought. Ryan Gosling stunning as usual and Ewan Mcgregor should stick to movies like this instead of those silly funny ones he does but that’s just a personal thought. Stay 2005 9/10.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s