The genre of Thrillers and Suspense are usually categorized by types of films that the viewer watches and then wonders what they just watched. Films like Memento and The Machinist are prime examples of this. Both films, after many viewings, are excellent films solely because they require that the viewer think of each scene with careful scrutiny making note of each and everything on the screen. Both films end with the type of ending that doesn’t necessarily satisfy on the first viewing, but ultimately sa…isfies after many viewings. Add the film Stay to this list of films.
Henry Lethem (Ryan Gosling) is an art student at a university who plays to kill himself in three days, that is unless his psychiatrist Sam Foster (Ewan McGregor) can figure him out to stop his plan. Foster soon learns that Lethem is starting to hear voices, voices that are telling him to do things. But the enjoyment for Foster doesn’t end here as Lethem starts experiencing horrifying visions of pain. Lethem seems to be able to see the future at least as he knows everything that is going to occur a bit before it does. When Foster asks if they’ll meet again when Lethem informs him that he’ll kill himself, he declares “Yeah, there’s still three more days’. While the concept of seeing into the future before your ‘death’ is nothing new, I always find it to be interesting how every movie plays this angle out.
Even though the film seems to be more about Henry, we spend more time focusing on Sam’s character. We see him playing chess with a blind man named Leon (Bob Hoskins), chatting with a fellow colleague about Henry, and discussing Henry with his girlfriend Lila (Naomi Watts). Sam begins to experience his own type of disillusioned reality when he hears things before they occur and doesn’t remember doing things he actually did. Sam goes to see Maureen Letham, Henry’s mother. He speaks to her, gets bitten by a dog, and then learns that she has been dead for a few months. All of these little scenes show the downfall of Sam’s character as he begins to get too wrapped up in his patients.
The film contains many interesting characters. The character of Henry is convinced that Leon, the blind chess player, is his father despite telling Sam that his father lives in a cemetery in New Jersey. The character of Beth Levy (Janeane Garofalo) plays a type of depressed psychiatrist who spends her nights sitting in the dark drinking and taking pills. The character of Lila is kind of like a female version of Henry in a way. She was once Sam’s patient, is an artist, and now lives with Sam. She is also suicidal (she describes one such moment of near death) and tends to make little mistakes like calling Sam Henry. The character of Athena (Elizabeth Reaser) is suppose to be Henry’s girlfriend, but is playing Ophelia in a play. In one scene, Henry finally loses Athena after falling down a spiral staircase. Scenes like this tend to showcase the film. Every scene has a shape and style to it with a deeper meaning than what we may get via first glance.
The camera work is quite intriguing in the film. Some scenes repeat themselves, but in a manner that transitions from one shot to the next, but then comes back to the first. Some scenes see the camera move in shot and then become the whole scene in the next shot, but in another totally new location without a fadeout. An example is found when two men are walking together near a pillar. They pass behind the pillar, and then are seen on the opposite side all while remaining in the same shot. The choice of scenery and detail is fascinating in that each picturesque scene creates another idea if we stop and look at the scene again.
Director Marc Forster is probably mostly known for the film Monster’s Ball due to Halle Berry’s Oscar winning performance. He’s also directed Johnny Depp in Finding Neverland. After watching those two films and his latest film Stay, I can easily understand the type of filmmaker that Forster is. He directs fine actors in pictures that may not necessarily make a lot of money due to their somewhat complicated plots, but is the type of filmmaker who makes pictures that demand the viewer stop and think after the credits roll. Forster carefully examines each scene with such skill that we know the scene needs another look. Take for example the scene where our main character walks through a door, thinks he’s undersea only for us to learn that he simply walked into a room where one wall is an aquarium.
Stay is a really fine film in that it really wants us to understand each and every scene. While each scene may not be fully explained to us in simple language, they all have deep meaning to them on further glance. I can’t stress enough about the film. If you enjoyed film’s like Memento, give Stay your time.
Stay is presented in Anamorphic Widescreen Aspect Ratio (Side B) of 2:35:1 or a FullScreen (Side A) 1:33:1. Colors seemed a bit pale in a few scenes, but just fine in other scenes (like when Sam is with Lila). I did notice a little bit of edge enhancement especially around the 18-19 minute mark in Sam’s apartment. The darker scenes showed more grain in some areas (like toward the end on the Brooklyn Bridge) but barely any grain like during some of the rain sequences. I will give the video a higher rating solely due to the visual experience that is in some of the scenery (look toward the ending sequence between Sam and Henry).
We are given a Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound Audio Track. Dialogue sounds crisp and clear while the surrounds don’t give off too much considering that there isn’t much action or uplifting scenery to speak of. There is no real bass response to speak of except a little bit during some of the thunder booms. The audio gets the job done.
Since this release is a double-sided release, I will label what is on each side.
- Side A
- The Music of Stay: This feature focuses on the writing of the music by the film’s many composers. All the composers wanted to use instruments that were rare and required a fine ear to make out. The feature goes through all the experiments they took and how they came up with each sound.
- Trailer: Here we get the film’s Theatrical Trailer.
- Scene-Specific Commentary: This First Commentary is done by Director Marc Forster and Actor Ryan Gosling and both speak for five different scenes. The first scene entitled Sam and Henry Meet focuses on both telling us about the memory of shooting this first scene. Forster found the feel that McGregor and Gosling had was really interesting with both actors bringing their experiences to the scene. The second scene entitled Strip Club focuses on Forster speaking mostly about the locale for the scene. They also speak briefly on the European extra’s. The third scene entitled I Met Your Mother Last Night focuses on both speaking how the scene was one of the few they had to actually rehearse. The fourth scene entitled Henry Heals Leon focuses on how Forster directs scenes overall. He mentions how scenes like this have a sort of instinctual feeling toward directing. The final scene entitled The Last Memory Before You Die focuses on Gosling speaking on his feelings of how beautiful the scene was to film. Forster comments on the ending of the film and what is kind of means. This commentary is definitely worth your time.
- Scene-Specific Commentary: Director Marc Forster, Editor Matt Chesse, Visual Director Kevin Haug, and Director of Photography Roberto Schaefer speak on seven different scenes. The first scene entitled The Opening focuses on what the opening of the film meant to them. The second scene entitled Nothing Makes Sense focuses on the message that appears in the sky and how they achieved that. They also briefly speak on the climax of the scene and how the film starts to change. The third scene entitled The End focuses on how all of the speakers loved the visual effect of Leon walking and the transitions of the scenery. The fourth scene entitled The Spiral Staircase focuses on the set of the Spiral Staircase and where they found it. The fifth scene entitled Club Meds focuses on the importance of this scene and how the film started to take the big transition into Henry’s complex story. The sixth scene entitled The Noodle Scene focuses on visual scenery and how the scene was so intense to shoot (in terms of how long the scene took). The final scene entitled The Columns focuses on the reversal of the cameras during a majority of the action. While I didn’t find these commentary to be as informative as the first set, I do recommend them for a listen.
- Departing Visions: This, simply put, is a great feature. It focuses on how 775 people in the U.S., everyday, experience a ‘near-death’ experience and how they meet in LA to share their experiences. We hear from a host of different people that speak about heart attacks, near deaths of parents, collapsing, and the actual images they went through.
Stay was poorly marketed with a trailer that made the film seem more like a horror film than a thriller. Had the film been marketed properly, the film would have reached its’ audience that hopefully will be reached with the DVD release. The DVD release comes equipped with a unique type of visuals, good audio and some fine features. I can definitely recommend Stay for a rental for those who haven’t seen Memento. However, if you’ve seen the aforementioned film and highly enjoyed it’s twisting story, Stay is right down your alley.
Special Features List
- The Music of Stay
- Scene-Specific Commentary with Director Marc Forster and Actor Ryan Gosling
- Scene-Specific Commentary with Director Marc Forster, Editor Matt Chesse, Visual Director Kevin Haug, and Director of Photography Roberto Schaefer
- Departing Visions