Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Movie Review: Stay

Or: "If There Is No Spoon, How Do You Eat Soup?"

Generally speaking, "Stay" is situated in the genre of psychodrama, alongside movies like "The Machinist", "The Sixth Sense", "Donnie Darko" and "Memento". However, it also distinguishes itself from its peers, in that the others - complex though they may be - are based on relatively simple concepts. If we strip away the jargon, "Donnie Darko" is about a boy who sees the future and changes it. If we turn "Memento" into a linear narrative, it's about a man seeking revenge.

"Stay" goes beyond this. Like other psychodramas, the movie is structured around mysteries and unexplained events, with the denouement pushed to the final moments of the movie - the effect is that we look back, now possessing a key bit of information we didn't have before, and the puzzle pieces fit together. However, the denouement of "Stay" can't really be boiled down to a straightforward concept. In hindsight, the answer is not as obvious as it usually is.

This had something of a double effect on me; my initial impression of the climax was "My God, this is dumber than a box of hair. It's indecipherable. It's sloppy." But when I really stopped to think about it, I realized that it all clicked into place. I like that. I like that "Stay" made me think, made me work for the conclusion most movies do (and perhaps should) offer in big neon letters.

The basic plot of the movie concerns Sam, a psychologist who has taken on a new patient named Henry Letham. Henry is a brooding teenager who hears voices, is suffering from a traumatic yet mysterious event in his past, and most disturbing of all, his half-coherent mumblings seem to have a hint of prophecy in them. When Henry tells Sam he's going to kill himself in three days, Sam decides to stop him... but as he delves deeper into Henry's psychosis, the world around him seems to come apart at the seams: the blind regain their sight, events repeat themselves, the dead walk. Is Henry responsible for this? Or is Sam losing his mind?

I'll go ahead and tell you that the above synopsis is completely useless, as it's both accurate in terms of what happens in the movie, and false in those same terms. :) There's absolutely nothing more I can tell you that wouldn't completely blow the mystery apart - and it's one that's worth experiencing on your own.