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STAY

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Ewan McGregor, Naomi Watts, Ryan Gosling, Janeane Garofalo, Bob Hoskins
Director: Marc Forster
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Surround, Spanish Dolby Surround
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1, Full Screen 1.33:1
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Features: See Review
Length: 99 Minutes
Release Date: March 28, 2006

“If this is a dream, the whole world is inside it.”

Film ***1/2

Stay is quite an experience. After it’s over, you may find yourself struggling hard to recollect all the events in the film, and try to make sense of them. Director Marc Forster (Finding Neverland, Monster’s Ball) has constructed a visionary and very artful thriller that fans of David Fincher and David Lynch will surely appreciate. Those expecting anything routine are in for a big surprise, as the film itself unfolds in a most original form.

Sam Foster (Ewan McGregor) is a New York psychiatrist who doesn’t know what to make of his latest patient. The patient in question is Henry Latham (Ryan Gosling), an NYC art student who seems to have ventured down a path of slow self destruction. He is pale, emotionally scarred and tells Sam that he plans to take his own life very soon.

Upon hearing this, Sam does what he can to ensure that Henry won’t do such a thing. He’s had an experience with suicide in the past. His girlfriend, Lila (Naomi Watts), attempted to kill herself several years ago. He was able to save her life, and now he feels responsible enough to save another from committing such an action.

Henry also carries a distinct trait; he can predict the future quite well. Moments after telling Sam that a hail storm is about to hit, it does. Sam is left speechless because the weather forecast didn’t call for any kind of storm that day.

The more Sam attempts to gather information on Henry’s past, the more strange things seem to become. As Sam digs deeper, bizarre occurrences begin to take place. The lines between what is real and what is not seem to fracture in the process. What happens is nearly impossible to explain, but Forster’s intriguing visual style helps in cluing the viewer in as to what is going on and, even more so, as to what will be explained in the end.

The triumph of the film lies in two areas. The first is the way the story remains a murky mystery not just to the viewer, but to the characters. The nature of the mystery is never clear until the final scene, which if crafted the right way, can be a mesmerizing quality for a thriller. However, if you’ve tried watching a David Lynch film and grown restless as a result, you may find the same effects here, but keep watching. It’ll all make sense in the end.

The second area is in the technical department, which is the dominant force of the movie. Forster incorporates numerous visual tricks as a way of suggesting multiple explanations for events in the film, causing the viewer the think even harder. Other technical elements such as image color, camera angles and specific cuts of music help in making the already moody atmosphere even moodier.

And the film’s conclusion is riveting in the way it ties up everything in the plot and makes sense of all the strange events that have happened up until this point. As the movie progressed, I never thought I would be able to explain this film to anyone. Thankfully, the ending came along and cleared everything up. For a single film to go in so many weird directions and make terrific sense in the final moments is such a rarity, that this movie must be commended for it.

Both a grand visionary spectacle and a fascinating mystery, Stay is a true mind-bender if there ever was one. Trust me when I tell you to Stay with this film and you’ll be most rewarded in the end.

Video ****

Fox has delivered a fantastic looking disc that is one of the best of the year thus far. The anamorphic picture is nothing short of amazing. The film incorporates many visual tones, a lot of which are dark, but they are all handled flawlessly. Colors are a big plus, too. Just about each shot in the movie carries a certain distinction, and the DVD presentation does it justice at a hundred percent. Both anamorphic widescreen and full screen versions are included, but you will be robbed if you go with the latter of the two. Be sure to flip the disc around if you want the full picture quality.

Audio ****

As the film is a unique technical piece, the 5.1 mix incorporates a sound presentation that is flat out stunning. With every bizarre moment comes a distinct moment of strong distinct sound, as all of the channels get a good working. Dialogue, music, and various technical elements help make this a sound experience you won’t soon forget. An amazing presentation indeed!

Features **1/2

This two-sided disc contains features on both sides. Included on Side A (Full Screen) is a featurette titled “The Music of Stay” and a Theatrical Trailer. On the flip side, there are two scene specific commentary tracks with cast and crew members and an additional featurette called “Departing Visions”.

Summary:

Stay presents quite a dark and moody journey for the viewer, but it’s one that those appreciative of inventive filmmaking will be awestruck by. It’s one of the most effective visionary movies to come out in quite some time and it deserves to be noticed.

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