A Film That Stays With You

I went to “Stay” expecting to find yet another “Secret Window,” “Identity,” or “Hide and Seek.” The few seconds of preview I saw promised another disappointing psychological thriller, whose endings rarely thrill the audience. However, the twists the film throws out gets the audience emotionally and physically involved with the ever-shifting characters on screen.

In typical psycho-thriller style, the film takes the audience on the usual rollercoaster of sights and emotions. The images director Marc Forster (“Finding Neverland,” “Monster’s Ball”) shows, and the transitions from scene to scene, give the impression of a disorienting hallucination. The audience is rarely certain where they are, or why they are there. At one point, Dr. Sam Foster (Ewan McGregor) walks out of a crummy, slip-shod nurse’s office into a beautifully marbled rotunda. The unexpected set changes throw off the viewers’ sense of being grounded in a certain place.Forster uses the symbol of staircases constantly. It gives the audience a feeling of being trapped in the Escher labyrinth staircase drawing, which exists even in the fourth dimension. There are many different stairs in the movie: a blue fiberglass lobby staircase, a tightly constructed stone spiral, and a gritty, urban emergency stairwell. While on one hand a means of conveyance, making it possible to get from one floor to the next, stairways also signify monotony with one step looking just like the next, which gives the impression of no movement at all.The images in this movie sync with the sound effects in order to provoke mental and physical responses from its audience. The music or sounds effects do not swell prematurely in order to cue the viewer as to what is about to happen. Low, staccato notes do not warn of sharks or dangers, high, graceful notes do not mean love is blooming. Instead, the music, sounds, and volume, throng precisely in the dramatic, climactic moments, resulting in a heightened level tension and fear from the audience.The best part about the movie is its reflexivity. The director seems to making fun of the pulp movies that have come out of the latest psychological mind-bending craze. Clues are in the open, and are not subtle, or reserved for a second viewing. The director uses the obviousness of the repeated details to confuse the viewer, who then starts making assumptions about the film’s twist. “What’s the catch?” The viewer keeps asking herself. Even when characters, lines, sets, and scenes make no sense, we still struggle to find the deeper meaning. Furthermore, the “twist” is not pulled out of nowhere, as in “Hide and Seek,” but is logically threaded throughout the film. The very title makes absolute sense but the end of the film.

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