Stay Review: What Does the Ending of Mean?

Mirrors, stairs, Hamlet and other clues to the thriller Stay the meaning of the ending, explanation of the plot summary, similar movies

Country: USA

Genre: Thriller, Drama, Detective

Year of production: 2005

Directed by: Mark Forster

Actors: Ewan McGregor, Ryan Gosling, Naomi Watts

tagline: “Between the worlds of the living and the dead there is a place you’re not supposed to stay”

If you ask every single person who has watched the dramatic thriller by Mark Forster about the idea behind it, then, perhaps, you will not hear two identical answers. However, one of the main questions that are raised here is: what is an illusion – ourselves or the world around us? In this regard, the meaning of the film Stay, probably lies in how scary it is to be in a dead end in life, from which it is impossible to get out, regardless of whether the glass is half full or empty.

Plot of the film Stay

Brief description of the content of the film “Stay”. A young artist named Henry Letham miraculously survives a crash on the Brooklyn Bridge. All other passengers – his parents and beloved Athena – died. Henry himself was driving. Having received severe stress and being in severe depression, he becomes a patient of psychiatrist Sam Foster.

Ryan GoslingThe role of Henry was played by Ryan Gosling. Frame from the film.

He assures that he hears voices and can predict the future. However, most of all the doctor is worried about Henry’s words that he is going to commit suicide this week – on the night from Friday to Saturday, at 24:00. The meaning of this is that the young man wants to die on the day of his coming of age.

Sam’s girlfriend Lyle, a survivor of a suicide attempt, offers to help – she thinks she can talk Henry out of suicide, but he suddenly goes into hiding.

Dr. Foster sincerely tries to help the patient. He finds the former doctor of the young man Dr. Levy, who is in a deranged state. Then he manages to find Letham’s mother, Olivia, who for some reason mistakes Sam for Henry. Suddenly, something very strange happens: blood flows from the woman’s head. When Foster tries to help her, she lashes out at him and stabs him in the arm.

Seeking help at the clinic, Sam discusses his visit to Olivia Letham with a police officer. The law enforcement officer stuns the doctor with the words that a woman died in this house a few months ago – apparently, the same Letam – and he attended her funeral. Against this background, Foster begins to feel that he has become a participant in some kind of monstrous hoax, the meaning of which he cannot yet understand.

A little later, Sam finds the girl Henry was in love with – waitress Athena. She is an aspiring actress, rehearsing the role of Hamlet. However, she agrees to help the psychiatrist and informs him that she will take him to Henry. Following her down the spiral staircase, Sam soon loses sight of her. Returning back, he again sees Athena, who, as if nothing had happened, is reading the same passage from Hamlet as at the time of the first meeting with him.

Ewan McGregorEwan McGregor played the role of Sam Foster. Frame from the film.

The fateful hour is approaching. Towards the end of the film, Sam finds a bookstore that his patient frequented. There he discovers paintings by a young man, exchanged for books about a young artist who committed suicide on the Brooklyn Bridge, exactly on his 21st birthday. Sam comprehends the hidden meaning of Henry’s desire: he is trying to imitate an idol.

Around 24:00, Dr. Foster discovers his patient and tries to talk him out of committing suicide. He does not succeed – Letam points the barrel of the pistol into his mouth and shoots.

Stay Ending explanation

Explanation of the ending of the picture. At the end of the film “Stay”, the mise-en-scene with an accident is repeated, in which Henry Letham receives a serious injury incompatible with life. It turns out that all the characters in the film are witnesses to the accident. Sam and his colleague Laila try to save the young man, who instead of Laila sees Athena and invites her to marry him. Laila-Athena, out of pity, agrees.

The meaning of the ending of the film “Stay” is that all the events of the picture actually did not exist – they existed only in the fading mind of Henry. However, Dr. Foster, feeling the powerful impulse given to him by Henry, invites Lila (with whom he actually did not have a relationship) for a cup of coffee.

At the very end of the film, Sam says a strange phrase: “The Buddhists were right,” and a little earlier, on the bridge, Henry says even more incomprehensible words – “Only you are real.” That is, it can be assumed that a few minutes before Henry’s death, he somehow managed to build a parallel world in which part of his personality now continues to live in Sam.

The meaning of the film

In their analysis, many viewers write that “Stay” is a real puzzle film in the style of David Lynch. And in fact – to understand what the film is about, at first glance, it is quite difficult. However, not everything is so scary.

The narrative of the picture is non-linear and it begins at the end. The doctors, Sam and Lila, are leaning over the dying young man, repeating “Stay, stay with me” all the time. This, in particular, is the clue to the name of the picture.

Henry, who received a severe head injury, is very upset by what happened and considers himself to be the culprit of the accident, although Sam repeats that he is not to blame. Physical and psychological reasons lead to the fact that a young person turns on a defense mechanism. He is unable to bear the tragedy and disidentifies himself with his own personality.

In doing so, he identifies with Dr. Sam Foster, his colleague Lila, and a mentally unstable student named Henry. This is not just so: according to one of the interpretations, a multiple personality serves as a protection against difficult experiences.

What unites the three sides of the personality of the protagonist of the film “Stay”? In particular, he needs the identity of the doctor in order to try to help himself escape, as well as to clarify the situation.

Naomi WattsNaomi Watts played the role of Lila. Frame from the film.

What do Henry and Lila have in common? First, she tried to commit suicide. Secondly, she was in despair for a long time, in which the real Henry is now. Another feature that united them was the love of painting. It seems interesting that she is identified by his consciousness with his beloved Athena – probably, both girls also have common features.

What does the real Henry have in common with a suicidal student? Almost everything – from gender and age to guilt and unwillingness to live …

One of the key symbols of the film “Stay” are mirrored surfaces. They hint at the refraction of the consciousness of the protagonist and hint at the fact that everything that happens is unreal. Spiral staircases speak about the “twisting” of Henry’s consciousness, one of which Sam descends after Athena.

There is an interesting reference to Shakespeare in the picture. It’s not just the mise-en-scene in which Athena rehearses the role of Hamlet. The point is that the hero’s name is Henry Letham. His last name is a charade. If you rearrange the last 3 letters forward, you get Hamlet – Hamlet. Shakespeare’s main question was “To be or not to be?”. Henry faces a similar dilemma, and that is the essence of the film.

“Please stay,” Sam and Lila beg him. He must decide whether to stay (to be) and live, being devoured by guilt for the death of dear people, or to leave (not to be) with them, because without them there is no meaning in his life. And Henry makes his choice not to be.

To be or not to be.Frame from the film.

In thoughts, everything can happen much faster than in reality. Therefore, in just a couple of moments, the young man manages to live several days in his imagination. Immersed in illusions, he tries to protect himself from the cruel truth – after all, he was driving at the time of the accident.

Feelings of guilt and a failed love story force Henry to leave the world of illusions and accept the truth. To do this, he has to kill himself in his own imagination. As it turned out, he makes the right decision – having come to his senses before his death, Henry learns that the accident was not his fault. Moreover, in delirium, he proposes to his now dead beloved, thereby ending his internal torment.

Similar films

Here are a few films similar in meaning to “Stay”:

  • Mulholland Drive (USA, France, 2001). A mysterious girl gets into an accident and loses her memory. She meets a young woman named Betty. But is everything as random as it seems at first glance?
  • “Vanilla Sky” (USA, Spain, 2001). After the accident, David’s face became disfigured beyond recognition. He understands that the time has come for a reassessment of values.
  • “Machinist” (Spain, France, Great Britain, USA). A young man is desperately trying to correct a terrible mistake he has made.
  • Jacob’s Ladder (USA, 1990). After being wounded in Vietnam, a soldier returns home. At home, gloomy, frightening visions begin to haunt him.
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