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"It's manna from heaven! Run!"

© 2005, 20th Century Fox
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When psychiatrist Sam Foster (Ewan McGregor) meets patient Henry Latham ("The Broodinator 3000" himself, Ryan Gosling), he finds a young man ready to kill himself, haunted by voices and uncertainty. As Sam looks deeper into Henry's past to comprehend his extreme problems, he begins to uncover inaccuracies and mental turmoil that Henry cannot explain. With the support of his girlfriend (a wasted Naomi Watts), Sam looks high and low for clues to help Henry, yet finds his own sanity tested as he gets closer to the truth.

Shot two years ago, "Stay" (IMDb listing) feels like a long forgotten remnant of the twist ending genre that has only now just started to release its grip on cinemas.

After taking a creative spring break with his sentimental "Finding Neverland," director Marc Forster heads back to the dark side of the subconscious with "Stay." A carefully thought out thriller, "Stay" is antiseptic cinema that flashes in front of your eyes, yet doesn't contain any filmmaking elements that penetrate the senses. The film is Forster's visual marathon, which he runs with enthusiasm, staging an endless spectacle of slick transitions and glossy shots. It feels, though, that Forster is only making this film for himself. "Stay" as a psychological thriller is immensely tepid, leaning on known genre elements (paranoia, unexplained weirdness) to get by, never cracking the door open for the audience to get caught up in the mystery, which should be the first priority for a film of this nature.

Frustratingly, the screenplay by David Benioff is deliberately obscure, placing random, useless clues along the way, purposefully mucking with coherency in an effort to keep the audience from guessing the ending. Sam's discoveries only lead to more questions, and the line between crazy and sane is never drawn. The film commits right away to Sam's delusions, letting the air right out of the mystery angle the film holds dear. "Stay" hands over a lot of filmmaking minutia to sort through, but no reason to bother taking on the homework.

To get to the climax, Forster and Benioff spend a lot of time arranging their characters in ways that suggest a bigger resolution than what actually comes. "Stay" is dramatically frigid (emotion would only deepen the suspense), so the lengthy, twisty story can be a drag, especially when the film's over, and the viewer has to contemplate just how much Forster worked to get to his ending, and it still doesn't resonate. Unfortunately, "Stay" has the aura of a straight-to-video thriller blessed with a well-known cast. There are no surprises to get excited about, and Forster's stylistic choices tend to push the film into tedium instead of constructing an exceptional journey into dreamlike confusion and imagined fate.

Filmfodder Grade: D

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