Marc Forster | 95 mins | DVD | 18 / R
I’m sure some viewers didn’t bother to stay until the end of Stay, baffled by an increasingly bizarre plot — which, at times, seems to be doing its best to stay still too — and put off by apparently pointless scenes. If only they had stayed, they could’ve discovered that they had indeed wasted an hour and a half of their lives on a story with a deceptively unoriginal conclusion.
The main problem with Stay is that it thinks it’s cleverer than it is. At its heart is a mystery, or set of mysteries, which the conclusion of can be too easily guessed right from the start. That’s not to say you can piece it together from the clues given, but you can certainly guess at it. This is because much of the film, and its clues, are apparently meaningless. Either there’s supposed to be some deeper, unrevealed significance to things like never-ending staircases and a blind man’s vision being restored, or it’s all there just to look significant and help hide/complicate the final revelation. The climax is consequently disappointing: it’s too obvious, it doesn’t bother to tie everything in, nor does it seem to allow room for the viewer to retrospectively tie things up. To rub salt in the wound, a brief epilogue is twee, one of those ideas that might sound like a neat tweak on what we’ve seen but should actually have been cut.
There are some positives, mostly in the direction. Forster has proved himself excellent with visuals — look at the fantasy scenes in Finding Neverland or the HUD-like graphics in Stranger Than Fiction — and there’s plenty to add to that list. The intriguing scene transitions are the stand-out. While they may initially seem pointlessly flashy, the ending, however flat it may be, does suggest they were done for a reason. Throughout, the film is well shot and well edited, but, perhaps, too well — or, rather, ‘too obviously’. By deliberately ignoring several standard editing rules (I won’t reveal which here), the film-literate viewer may find that too much is given away too early on.
Clearly someone liked Stay, as writer David Benioff sold the screenplay for $1.5 million, and it would be nice to agree with that buyer — there’s a good cast, a good director, some good ideas — but ultimately it’s 85 minutes that seem retrospectively pointless when the final ten do so little with them. There’s no final “oh, that’s what it was about!” twist, just “well, I’d guessed that much” coupled with “and I’ve seen that before”. Some qualities (Forster’s visuals, the likable cast) almost earned it an extra star, but the ending took it back off them.