The truth never stays.
By John DeSando, WCBE's "It's Movie Time"
Psychiatrist Sam Foster (Ewan McGregor) may be going psychotic, but he has to move fast to catch his girlfriend, Lila (Naomi Watts) and his new client, young Henry (Ryan Gosling). Lila has attempted suicide; Henry predicts exactly when he'll do it. Sam must keep from a mental slide by rejecting his alleged encounters with people already declared dead and his growing identification with his suicidal client. Henry indulges us with a few predictions that come true, not blockbusters, just possible miracles that promise us more than they deliver.
At one point a character exclaims the world is an illusion, and perhaps that idea should serve as a theme for this sometimes X-Files, other times Memento-like film. I can't be certain about anything I say factually about the plot because most of the film is inconclusive about what is actually happening. That's ok for Sixth Sense, not for this film. Several of us left not certain about the plot or the themes, not a good situation for storytelling or thrillers in particular. This much we do know: The ending chooses the most common explanation for inscrutable films like this; in fact, you may be insulted enough to regret the time you invested in guessing a more sophisticated rationale for the plot meandering.
Because Sam is the protagonist, it's common to assume he'll carry the film's thematic heft, yet all we do is catch the Memento train to confusion that gradually seems more artifice than art, more manipulation than machination. The emphasis on twist rather than truth eventually sinks the film. That you might "stay" to see the entire film is a tribute to your abiding interest in the occult and convoluted plots that reveal truths; in Stay, the truth strays. Or maybe Oscar Wilde was right when he declared the difficulty of shared truth: "A truth ceases to be true when more than one person believes in it."
John DeSando teaches film at Franklin University and co-hosts WCBE's "It's Movie Time," which can be heard streaming at www.wcbe.org Fridays at 3:01 pm and 8:01 pm. Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.RR.com