I recently got the chance to rewatch one of my favorite movies of all time, STAY, with a friend of mine who had never seen it. This is definitely a film you should see with someone who doesn’t know what to expect of it as often as possible, and you should tell them nothing. It’s been compared to other films in a “Simpsons did it” kind of way (I won’t list of them to avoid ruining it), but back when I saw it in 2006, I personally had never seen anything like it before. I know I’ve been influenced in some way by a ton of films over the years, but there’s only a handful I can namely give credit to for challenging me to completely rethink my approach storytelling. STAY gave me a special appreciation for wrapping small details up in a blanket of assumed insignificance and throwing them them into the air like confetti at the end to celebrate your ignorance.
The script was penned by David Benioff, who now has a sweet little gig writing on some show called “Game of Thrones”, and directed by MONSTER’S BALL director Marc Forster. Psychiatrist Sam Foster (played by the backwards aging Ewan McGregor) is sent in as a “substitute shrink” for a troubled college student and artist named Henry Lethem (Ryan Gosling) who has etched out a day on his calendar to kill himself. Dr. Foster assumes personal responsibility for Henry’s continued existence and makes it his mission to save him, just like he did with his suicidal-patient-turned-girlfriend, Lila (Naomi Watts). In Sam’s exploration of Henry’s broken psyche and connection to reality, he himself gets caught up in a place where he loses the line between what’s real and what’s not. If it sounds like a movie you’ve seen before, it could because you have seen it before, or at least elements of it. I’m not calling STAY a showcase of untapped concepts and exploits, but it is a movie that does what it’s supposed to very, very well, and that’s a feat audiences (and critics) don’t appreciate as much as they should, especially in today’s entertainment landscape. But if you’re a hard sell and none of that interests you, come for the 90 minutes of emo-haired Ryan Gosling and confused-faced Ewan McGregor, stick around for the illusionary mind-hump. ***