“Stay” is a film that can and should be rewatched. Moreover, you will have to return to it if you do not read spoilers before the first viewing because the whole essence of the picture is revealed only in its last minutes. Though the film grossed only $8 million at the worldwide box office on a budget of $50 million, many critics call it one of the most underrated movie projects of the 2000s.
What is the meaning of the movie “Stay”?
First, we will briefly explain what the whole point of the plot of this film is if that is what you are looking for here. All of the events that unfold on the screen are the spawn of the main character’s dying brain moments before his death. A world created by the mind, imbued with feelings and memories, not subject to the usual laws and yet functioning properly in its own way.
If you look closely at the faces of the people surrounding Henry in the final shots of the picture, you will recognize all the key characters you have looked at before. The dying guy’s inflamed consciousness clings to these faces and images and uses them to create its own story, which has nothing to do with reality.
The endless guilt talks of suicide and repeatedly written phrase “forgive me” are a reference to the fact that he was at the wheel of the car at the time of the crash. For the same reason, Henry’s mother’s head (the Henry who exists in the universe created by his own consciousness) is bleeding, as well as the guy’s own head. And, of course, hence the combination of love and unbearable longing, tragedy, and hopelessness with which we are told of Athena (again, in an imaginary world).
“Henry, look around you. If this is a dream, it holds the whole world,” Sam Foster says moments before the main character’s “suicide,” signifying his return from a world of woven illusions to reality. In other words, the meaning of the plot is practically on the surface; it is just difficult to grasp and understand it during the first viewing.
As for Sam and Lila’s relationship, the echoes of which they feel after Henry’s death, who united them by an intense love in his imagination, it can be interpreted as something like fate or destiny. Sometimes we see people, and it seems to us that they are literally made for each other. And they probably feel this invisible thread that connected their destinies even before the real acquaintance too.
In fact, this moment concerning Sam and Lila is the only sort of “fantastic” component of the plot of “Stay.” Everything else is not sci-fi, but a story about the feelings consuming a dying man, realizing that his most beloved and dearest people have died for him in a few minutes. For sure, sometimes you create some scenarios in your head, too, then introduce the characters and “live” some plots with them. The world in Henry’s head is something of this realm; we see thoughts, pain, and despair, not a parallel dimension or a break in the space-time continuum. It is the piercing tragedy of the common person, shown from the inside of his soul.
Love Infinite and Nonexistent
Henry and Athena’s relationship is one of the central plot lines of “Stay.” It is a love that will disappear with Henry’s last breath, who lives a few moments longer than his failed bride. It is a passion that permeates his whole mind and his essence, making him suffer and experience unbearable pain: because happiness was so close, because everything was possible, because his feelings were mutual, and everything should not have been like this at all. But this couple will have neither a marriage proposal nor a wedding, buying a house, having children, and the like – the story of their existence will be cut short on the bloody asphalt. The memories of it will disappear as soon as Henry’s last flashes of consciousness fade away.
In the central character’s fantasy, Athena is not with him, but he only observes her from the sidelines because he knows that if they were not together, she would not have died in that accident. Of course, such reasoning is illogical and irrational since such things cannot be foreseen, and one does not follow the other – it is simply a coincidence. But in such a situation, it is impossible not to blame yourself and wish that things had happened differently, even at the cost of your own love.
The recurring scene to which Sam Foster returns – Athena rehearsing the role of Hamlet – probably represents one of Henry’s most vivid memories. Perhaps it was while watching this picture that he finally realized he had fallen in love with her. Or it was then that he wanted to tie his fate to her. However, the specifics are not important here: what matters is that this moment in Athena’s and Henry’s history was, for some reason, the most memorable.
Parents: always critical, always necessary
Parents are special people in everyone’s life. Their love and affection for them is something unconditional and indispensable but no less important and meaningful. For every person who has a more or less good relationship with their parents (and that is precisely what Henry has), their presence in life makes it brighter, safer, and more secure. They are the support, which sometimes is not realized, but always felt as a kind of buffer of warmth, comfort, and love, which you can turn at any time.
A visit to Henry’s mother does not give Sam, who is part of this fictional world, the answers he needs. And it hurts Henry all the more that he also forfeits his mother and father at the same time he loses his beloved. It is, literally, a punch in the gut, knocking the ground out from under him and making the already tricky condition of his dying body even more unbearable. In fact, this shock, a real tragedy, and this misunderstanding of what happened are what we see in the scenes of the world his mind has created that are associated with his parents in one way or another.
Someone Who Can’t Help
Evan McGregor has perhaps the most complex and controversial role in this film: he plays a kind of embodiment of the instinct of self-preservation. The element that unknowingly tries to keep Henry within an imaginary world where he can feel more at ease than in the terrifying outside world. Why it was he and Lila who kept him company is transparent – they were the ones trying to help the dying guy to a greater extent. Their images became the prototypes of those who would protect and support Henry, who at one moment lost all safety and support in his life.
However, it is clear that this cannot go on forever. The lead character’s injuries are too severe, and he must die. But, importantly, he must pass away in consciousness: in awareness of all his tragedy, guilt, and pain, not in dreams of an imagined world where he could theoretically fend off some of his sufferings. So in this reality, he puts a gun in his mouth and pulls the trigger, while in the physical world, he is delirious, seeing Athena instead of Leila, and proposes to her, which he didn’t have time to do before. By adding this ingenious illusion to reality, he feels calmer and completes his life’s journey, leaving this world and all its possibilities to someone else.