Somewhere between reality and illusion, life and death, art and nonsense, lies Stay, a head-scratching thriller from the director of Monster's Ball and Finding Neverland. Where those films had plots, this has pretensions, let off the leash in a nightmarish New York that psychiatrist Ewan McGregor hurtles around trying to stop new patient Ryan Gosling from carrying out a threat of suicide. Go in seeking tidy twists or conventional thrills and you'll end up throwing popcorn. The best advice is to sit back and enjoy the tricksy editing and quality cast instead.
The film's foothold on reality starts to slip soon after art student Henry (Gosling) mopes into Sam's (McGregor) office and announces that he's going to end it all in three days. We enter a dreamscape where events repeat themselves, locations chop and change and people start bleeding for no reason. Are we inside Sam's head or Henry's? Why does Henry insist that blind chess player Bob Hoskins is his dad? And what's the deal with McGregor's alarmingly short trousers.
"A SENSE OF UNEASE"
Answers - albeit vague ones - arrive long after many viewers will have ceased to care. Yet Stay is not a completely dead loss. At its best it conjures a sense of unease that doesn't depend on cheap shocks, while the way one scene morphs into another adds a funky little frill. There are also committed turns from McGregor and an underwritten Naomi Watts as his troubled artist girlfriend. It's just a shame the two couldn't have met in more satisfying circumstances...