Hi, Let me take your coat. Sit down, relax. Would you like a glass of wine? So how was your day? Sounds tedious. Yeah, I can’t wait to Netflix and chill either. I’m glad you mentioned it actually, I was thinking we might try something a little…’different’ tonight. Now it’ll be uncomfortable at first, maybe even jarring. Wait, hear me out. That’s just the first time, but the next time, the discomfort won’t be there because you’ll know what to expect and you’ll find it rewarding…well I guess I just assumed there’d be a next time… Oh come on, it’s only 9 o’clock. Really? You have to go now? Can I call you?
Marc Forster’s Stay is a unique and ambitious film which appears to sacrifice narrative coherence and naturalism in service of an exploration of the unconscious. The film breaks conventions of story structure and ‘crosses the line’ in the cinematographic sense. While increasingly askew framing and scene repetition at times make for an uncomfortable watch, yet if you blink you may miss something crucial to the plot.
This is both the central problem with Stay and the reason it has garnered a cult following over the years. It often seems as if the filmmakers are daring the audience to stay with it but by the end, upon reflection, everything is as it should have been. Everything, down to the most minute detail is there for a reason.
Stay is a difficult film to recommend because its genius is not revealed until its end, or even perhaps until its second viewing. For those who don’t make the journey, it’s easy to see why it may be dismissed as self-indulgent or pretentious.