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Monday, January 14, 2013

Review: Before They Faced "The Impossible" Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts Starred in "Stay"

A Crazed Conundrum

By Chris Sabga

"Stay" is a visually-arresting psychological mystery-thriller with gorgeous set-pieces and striking camerawork.  It's also confusing as hell. But as one character says, "There's too much beauty to quit."

Here's what can be definitively discerned from the labyrinthine plot:

The film stars Ewan McGregor as Dr. Sam Foster, a psychiatrist who becomes the "substitute shrink" for a disturbed patient named Henry Letham (played by a young Ryan Gosling with dirty longer hair that makes him look like a dead ringer for the actress Chloƫ Sevigny).

Henry's previous psychiatrist, Dr. Levy (an almost unrecognizable Janeane Garofalo), has taken time off because she's "exhausted." The stress of Henry's case obviously has something to do with it – or does it?

Henry begins hearing voices and plans to commit suicide in three days. Now it's up to Sam to find him and stop him.

As it turns out, Sam's girlfriend Lila (Naomi Watts) is familiar with suicidal feelings herself; she once tried to kill herself in the bathtub with two razorblades.

Bob Hoskins appears in a small role as Sam's friend Leon. He may or may not be blind. He may or may not be alive. He may or may not have a connection to another character. The only thing for sure is that he plays a pretty effective game of chess. In a way, so does this movie – because it always seems to be several steps ahead of the audience, and that continues even as the credits begin to roll.

But what does all of this indicate about Dr. Sam's mental state? His patient Henry may not be the only one with problems.

A film like this with so many strange twists, turns, and developments requires a strong payoff – and yet the ending barely seems to clear anything up. A cursory glance at the IMDB message board reveals multiple threads with numerous interpretations.  

Such an obtuse approach usually irritates me to the core. Somehow, though, I find myself wanting to talk about "Stay," recommend it to others, and even watch it again to piece together the perplexing puzzle that unfolds during the 99 minutes we spend with these fractured people. Surely there are clues to be found in the movie's dazzling dreamlike visuals and camera transitions that seamlessly blend one scene and location into the next.

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