Home » What I Watch

Explanation of the Movie ‘Stay’

10 April 2006 125 Comments

The other night I watched the 2005 movie “Stay” with Ewan McGregor, Naomi Watts and some other guy (Ryan Gosling). The only reason I watched it is that so many people come to this site looking for an explanation of that movie. Unfortunately this movie has little to no plot and really doesn’t need an explanation in my view.

*** SPOILERS ***

The movie opens with a brutal car crash in which Ryan Gosling’s character is not hurt at all. This is your first clue that something is awry. If you’re like me you’ll have read the box the movie came in. The box says something to the effect of “you cannot stay in the world between life and death” so it’s a fairly small leap to assume that’s where the movie takes place. From here on out you’re in a dream world. Most people don’t get this until the end of the movie or until they watch it a second time.

The movie does have nice scene transitions, just like a dream. Characters walk from location to location as if they were teleported or were walking from a movie set to a movie set. This is just the director showing off and at the same time telling the viewer that this is a dream or taking place in the dream world between life and death. In other words, Ryan’s dying from the car crash, and this is what’s going through his mind right before he dies. There’s a lot of this but it’s all fairly obvious stuff and gets old after a while.

Some examples:
* Twins and triplets in the college lecture hall. Twins and triplets in a dream suggest duality.
* Bob Hoskins says “The buddists had it right, the world is an illusion”.
* Characters walk behind pillars and change direction
* Characters get confused for one another
* Characters change appearance.
* Sees his dead parents.
* Ewan falls down stairs (dream reference), then the previous scene (hamlet) is repeated
* Places morph into one another
* Giant seal (manatee?) in the aquarium, seals in dreams refer to playfullness and creativity?
* Naomi’s character helps Ewan in the dream world, just as she’s doing in the physical world.
* Ewan’s pants are too short. This I don’t know, probably something they threw in for ha-hahs.
* Raining – “dark clouds and a heavy downpour indicate feelings of isolation and helplessness”.
* Riding a train – indicates a shared experience.

The rest of the movie wanders on with nothing happening really. You might think stuff is happening based on the way the scenes are cut together but nope, there’s nothing happening.

Finally the movie ends with the predicted ending that everything you’ve just seen has taken place in the mind of the dying Ryan Gosling on the Brooklyn bridge. Again, it’s not a true logical movie in the sense of Primer. It’s just an artsy non-conclusive open to interpretation type thing that doesn’t tie up all the loose ends but leads you to suspect you missed something. You really didn’t. Thumbs down.

This movie could’ve been better though. If maybe they put Ryan’s character bare-foot denoting death?


  • Max Hutchinson said:

    Just because you failed to watch the movie twice and understand its intricacies does not mean that the film “has little to no plot and bears no explanation”. The plot is clear; a psychologist finds himself losing reason and trying to find an explanation to a world that is making less sense every day. The explanation of the films strange events lies in Leons mention of Freuds fable about the burning boy. That which surrounds us affects our subconscious, even in the form of dreams. Ryans character must choose whether he holds onto life despite his loss and guilt, or whether he will let go rather than face his pain. Those helping him in real life guide him in his dream/vision but are unable to convince him to survive. The story takes place twice. Once we see it through a dream, once through reality. The dream seems to last three days but truly occurs in Ryans mind during his brief struggle for life which we see during the last 10 minutes of the film. This explains the visions, the voices, the confusion of the characters and Ryans ability to affect the world around him. Not hard to figure out for me, but I am majoring in psychology, so that may have helped.

  • Dave said:

    Tou missed everything. Unfortunately you are not a deep thinker or one with a dab of respectable intuition:

    This is really a spectacular film. I know Im going to have to see it at least once more, because theres so much stuff going on that its impossible to give Stay the attention it deserves in one viewing.

    First and foremost, although I wont give away the plot here, Ill say that the movie (thankfully) does not rely on a surprise ending for the totality of its impact. In fact, if youre paying attention, you can pretty much figure out (mostly) what the situation is before you get too far into the movie. Unlike some of the worst examples of this film genre (i.e. The Sixth Sense), Stay is not a film that “hides the ball,” but instead presents you with characters and a storyline, and asks you to draw your own conclusions.

    That said, there isnt an obvious solution to the movie. While you may be able to explain the film after viewing it (which is trickier that it will seem at first), you may realize that the real brilliance of this film is in the levels of its narrative. At its core, it is a basic psychological thriller. Simultaneously, and perhaps subconsciously, it also meditates on weighty issues of reality and identity- consider what the imperative “Stay” means to different characters at different points in the film, and its almost like youre watching an entirely different movie than you originally thought.

    Finally, the visuals in this movie provide their own context and narrative regarding the fragile nature of human memory and perception. This is the best looking movie Ive seen in a long time, and the fact that its combined with such a great story and cast makes this a rare treat.

  • B said:

    Yeah, I too must have missed EVERYTHING! The movie sucked and I wouldnt recommend it to anyone!

  • Gregg said:

    from what I can gather, Ryans character henry at the begining was in a car crash (obvious) at the point you see him unharmed is were the dreamworld begins, the entire movie except the end is a dream, the type of dream where you are mostly asleep but somewhat awake, this explains the small clues such as the answering machine asking henry to hold on, you ever had a dream where the phone is ringing only to wake up to the phone ringing, the people standing on the bridge at the end are the people henrys mind has put in place of thoughts in his head, they play the short flashes of situations. I personaly dont think Sam, (ewan mcgregor)has anything to do with henry, its just a subconscience persona, in the dream henry tells sam that he came to him because he is the only one that can save him, i think he says because his conscience body only has sam trying to keep him alive until the ambulence shows up. I also believe in the dream sams girlfriend plays almost no relationship to henry because at the end you see henry thinking she is athena so his subconscience didnt build a relation to her personaly. This seems to be the only logical explanation to the story i can come up with, i felt as though we took a ride into the dream world where things seem real yet unreal things happen i.e. the blind man is cured with the touch of hand, as if henry was god, a subconscience reaction to being close to god or near death maybe. Anyways i thought it was a great movie, you watch as though there is going to be a huge revealed secret, and come to find its no real secret the answers are there.

  • Kelvin said:

    The reason ewans pants are short.
    Henry lying on the floor when the accident occured. and Ewan was crouching to help him and from henrys point of view is just the pants and socks. Thats why in henrys mind, he thinks that the ewan wears short pants.

  • RR said:

    Max, thanks for the psycho-babble explanation and saving me from the drudgery of watching the movie. Guess Im not a deep thinker, and your explanation made the most “consolidated” sense of all.

  • Jesse said:

    Just watched the movie, and came away completely puzzled. I was quite angry that I wasted so much time, awaiting all the peices to come together in the end, but when there, I was still confused. I came to the net in search for an answer and finally found one thanks to Max. I may not be the brightest star in the sky, but I do think (and there is proof by the explanations found on the web) that most wont understand this movie. I give it two thumbs down.

  • jogie said:

    you re maybe right…but what if you are not? open ending is an alibistic element in this kind of films, i guess

  • eu vi chegar said:

    yep you probably knew it all along because everything is obvious and clear.
    good movie. good plot.

  • Maria said:

    A lot of Americans are used to movies that are “chewed up” for them, where one doesnt require to think…too bad, in my opinion. This is an excellent movie, very engaging and beautifully shot. Ive found all of the clues and answers by the end of the movie. When we analyze our dreams, a lot of it doesnt make any sense, thats how you should think of the oddities in the movie. Ill definitely watch it again, Im sure itll be a different experience once you know whats going on.

  • Shanahan said:

    I dont buy into generalizations and Im Irish, not American.

    I understood most but not all the clues. I think if the plot had been deeper then I would have made the effort to understand the “clues”. The plot was so weak that 45mins into the movie I had already figured out the main arc and had lost interest.

    Its very easy to create a series of bells and whistles on an otherwise simple story. Its far more difficult to create a compelling story with no gimmicks. Watch Primer for an example of same.

  • Mario Sotomayor said:

    I take it all back… everything I said half way through, the reality of it all is time stood still for me, stood still while I watched this dumb ass movie…. So I say “this movies really does suck ass”… this movie does get two fingers up, unfortunately its my two middle ones…………

  • Mario said:

    The reason that Ewans characters (Sam Foster) pants are short are because Ryan Gosling (Henry Letham) is looking at Sam while he is crouched which causes his pants to rise just that much higher. So, in the entire hallucination or illusion that is Henrys, Sams pants are raised as if they would be should he have been crouching.

  • Amanda said:

    OK..well im off to watch the movie again theres just a few things i would love to understand…first off…whats up with the whole artist killing himself thing having to do with? just doesnt make sense… and the movie is a dream but it seams as if its looked trough sams eyes.

  • Jessica said:

    I did not enjoy this movie (I agree with you re: the scene transitions, though – well done). I particularly didnt like the who attempt at a creepy version of Ground Hog Day and I think Ewans pants were too short to throw viewers off in a direction that had nothing to do with whats ultimately going on – perhaps that they are each others alter egos or something.

    I will say this – I thought Ryan Gosling did a fantastic job and I have since rented two or three other movies just because hes in them; at 25, I would venture to say hes one of the better actors of his generation if not the best.

  • Erin said:

    Is Sam suppose to represent Henry during his dying minutes of hallucination? I feel most of the movie was based on Sams life and confusions with reality. Why are we not seeing more of Henry?

  • Nina said:

    hey, by the way, it’s a walrus. not a seal or a manitee. just a walrus.

  • Jonathan Melancon said:

    This movie did rock. At least, if you didn’t appreciate the story because you’re too dumb or something, then rate it from an artistic point of view. Of course this is a movie to watch with an opened mind. Story was great, actors where perfect, and for god’s sakes! editing was pure genius. Maybe they already where movies of this kind before. True. But hey, stupid horror movies that invade theaters have the same script since 1670, and guess what, they still manage to sell their crap. So PLEASE, overestimating yourselves, stop thinking you’re that “all mighty movie critic”, and consider that compared to all the crap that’s being made theses days, it rocks. And it still rock compared to a lot of good movies. Nobody complained about Fight Club’s ending, although it was one of the easiest ways to end the movie. Judge a movie based on its content, not its ending.

  • vj said:

    i think u guys shud read wat freggs has to say

  • Sean said:

    A little clue:

    Henry’s last name is a rewrite of Hamlet (Let-Ham), and just like the prinse of Denmark, Henry is in a stade of To be or not to be, while he is waiting to die.

  • Levorne said:

    i loved the movie
    i was freaking lost at the end…. i was bewildred!
    then i read that the dying henry is dreaming?
    um.. ??
    WHAT!! someone please tell me wtf this movie is about

  • Shelby said:

    I thought that Stay was an amazing movie. It has so much to say about reality. I think it’s sad that people don’t open their minds a little bit to see the symbolism in it. I have watched this movie at least 6 times. I don’t get sick of it. You catch something new all the time. It is beautiful. And this life, or illusion, is beautiful. Honestly, it opened my eyes and and made me see that this is beautiful whatever it may be. I mean, who knows, we could be dead and our spirits are living in a dream. Maybe that is the reason of life. No one ever wonders about these things anymore. I think it’s sad. Trapped between life and death in a illusion. Everything is a symbol in this movie. Kind of like the Wall, except Stay is deeper because it deals with this reality. I give it infinite thumbs up. And to those that do not agree, I am sorry. You are entitled to your own opinion. But, if you ever watch it again, just take it all in as if it were you.

  • Laurelei said:

    What Sean said never even occurred to me: Way to Go Sean!
    I was lost for a bit in this movie: and I think that is the point: to feel lost and bewildered just as the characters must have been! I loved it, felt very creeped out and then the emotions at the end werre overwhelming, and I found myself crying for a stranger just like Naomi Watts. I felt the acting on Ewan, Naomi and Ryans parts were just stunning. And the cinematography was simply amazing.

  • rhea said:

    Just saw movie a year later for the second time. I’m so glad I found this site because I have been frustrated for a year. I give the movie two thumbs up. Too bad I could understand much of its conclusion. Thanks Max. I hope your assesment is right. I want to corner the writer/director for answers.

  • Filmluvr said:

    I am very torn by this movie. Part of me feels that its aesthetic quality makes up for confusion experienced during the movie. The movie is explained in the last minutes, and the feel of everything being a dream is done very effectively.The ending is also adequate.

    However, being a film/story writing major, I feel that the author/screenwriter disobeys one of the first rules of storywriting: Don’t spout a bunch of shit and at the end say,”Oh it was all a dream.” It is a huge betrayal to the viewer, that everything they watched was just an abstraction existing only in someone’s mind. I could make a movie about literally anything and call it a dream. How would that be significant? Are you ever interested when someone tells you about a dream they had? NO!!! The film’s lack of twist ending is also its downfall. The whole time I was expecting for some mind blowing ending, and it never came. That is the only way for these kind of abstract movies to be effective.

  • cindy said:

    My impression was that the “dream-like” quality depicted Sam’s brief psychotic break brought on by the trauma of wittnessing the accident and his inability to help the victim. Also thought the scenes at the aquarium (“the sea”) with the Walrus (or whatever it was)symbolized Sam’s subconcious. Good movie. Maybe a little overdone, visually, but still good.

  • Neo said:

    Just want to ask a few questions:
    Levy’s name was mentioned only after Henry died. So how come in the dream, Henry knows Levy’s name?
    What’s with the silver brief cases everyone’s carrying?
    What’s with the reoccurring “Watch Your Step Sign”?
    Henry’s shoelaces are untied, does that suggest anything?

  • Tilman said:

    Hi guys – I just watched the movie and after reading all the comments I think you only got half of everything.
    Filmluvr (three comments up) nailed it by writing
    ” Don’t spout a bunch of shit and at the end say,”Oh it was all a dream.” ”
    Well yes, half of the meaning is that Henry dreamed all of this before he died (a little bit like Jesus in the Last Temtation movie), but I think the other half of the meaning – excuse my english, if its too primitive – is that Sam and Lila had a big trauma together there, watching Henry die in their hands and they met there at the crash site, had coffee together started a relationship and are still dealing with the aftermath. Maybe she cut her wrists later. Maybe she can’t sleep and has to take pills. Maybe Beth started to drink after the accident – heck I don’t know.
    But I think/feel that there are two layers of reality. One – the brief moment before Henry dies and one that spands over years (as long as it would take for a slit wrist to heal) showing how difficult it is for to live with such a huge trauma.

  • suo said:

    i’d say it’s open to (too much) interpretation.
    is it a dream?/is ryan a ghost?/is it aftherlife?/is it imagination?
    every question may be answered with yes when you look at the movie in a particular way.

  • Natalie said:

    I though the acting in this movie was good but the storyline was just plain boring. I get the whole dream world thing it just isn’t very entertaining.

  • alex said:

    i have just one question : even if i think/feel i understood all the dream & etc…side about henry before his death, i don’t understand why sam in the last scene invits lila to drink a coffee after he has seemed to have “flashs” (thoughs by images) about a life together…???????????????

    (sorry for my bad english or if this question has been asked before, i couldn’t read every message :s)

  • Lemuel said:

    wtf?!!.. all of your were struggling to figure it out?! come on! i think max had the best commentary about the story (though majoring in psychology). not really, he had..

  • jason said:

    perhaps sam realizes his life is kind of empty and could end all too soon. the flashes are his mind conjuring up a possible reality. he saw the ring and and the dying kid, and was inspired to live life more fully

  • Joelle Arqueros said:

    WOW ok just watched it last night and absolutely found it to be genuis and I never say that. This movie does not tie up neatly like some typical Hollywood Box Office HIT made for ordinary people who don’t want to have to work when they see a movie- so if you didn’t get it and are so turned off -you probably never will until right before you die. Literally – because this movie so brilliantly takes us on a journey of the beauty of our brains and how we cope with extreme impactful tradgedy and pain , especially when taken away abrubtly with our loved ones- how in our last moments we want to live out what our dreams were and try to create them and make them happen. Whats makes us hold on to life? The specifics of the film arent even that important really -it’s his specific journey. Yes I think SAMS pants were high because of how he saw them from the ground and ,the people watching him were cast in is mind by the way he took them in for a seconds he absorbed them- the asian male bystander watching him die wanted to leave- and he was cast as somewhat of a cold mental health DR.- brilliant. Maybe his father never say him for what he was and he was able through his dream to make his father truly see him before he died-he was able to finally pop the question to his love he’d been probably excited and consumed by that for weeks and it was on him- he even thought Henry had stolen the ring at one point – SAM says I did’t steal your ring – Henry holds him by gunpoint, showing the extreme fear of that ring gone( he even reaches for it) and quick fix of a moment creating the quickest way to get it back- I could go on and on with each character .This film really moved me and made me think and appreciate being a human being- I think many of us go around day to day in small versions of these fantasies to help us survive day to day. It’s important to see them.

  • Charlie said:

    Lots of you are so closed minded STAY was excellently made and I find it quite annoying to see someone refer to the great transitions as the director showing off, its like not wanting to see kobe dunk, it gets the job done, puts points on the board, and is entertaining. On the other hand its also annoying to read someone think there above others because they understood the movie and were able to see the art in it, thats to Maria. let me tell you this blog does not represent American culture. American culture is barely a culture because no one is similar here.

  • rikander said:

    I think all of the characters in the movie were the people he last saw before he died standing around him. the entire movie is something he put together using the people around him, kind of like a dream, “between life and death” but stretched out, using that last 5 minutes or so laying on the ground. the reason he is depicted as unharmed is because he couldn’t see himself, or what was left of him. when he is at his most consciousness is when his dream is actually like a story. but towards the end he struggles when he’s slipping back and forth into consciousness, when there’s just a character chasing after something.
    when their is a character that wasn’t there at the scene, it is from his own memory of something (trading a painting for a book and the two characters).
    thats just my interpretation of (which there is no right and wrong about the ones above me) this movie, which should be fun and interesting for people to share their thoughts about, rather than saying hostile and confronting things about “im right and your wrong.”
    people need to value others opinions when it helps to see things from another point of view.

    i thought all of yours were interesting, aside from the bitchy trouble makers.

  • George said:


  • Evi said:

    I just watched “Stay” and felt utterly bewildered and fascinated by it, so I came to this site looking for an explanation. Thank you, each and every one of you who took the time to describe your point of view, thanks to you I am now able to appreciate this beautiful film in a better way.

    If you still feel hesitant whether or not to see “Stay” (maybe for the second time, if you didn’t get it at first), I strongly suggest that you do, for it is a spectacular, deep, true masterpiece that provokes you to see the beauty around you and cherish the biggest treasure of all – life itself.

  • SummerSnow said:

    i agree with max and dave =) good movie!!
    atleast..its something different =D

  • Beks said:

    I cannot believe that you did not like this movie. This is one of my favorite movies of all times. It seems that you really misunderstood a lot of it and even failed to see the simplicity of the story amidst all the technical complexities. I have watched this film multiple times and I must say that it even moves me to tears. Though it is a terribly sad and almost depressing story, it is also extremely beautiful. Also, I would just like to add that Ewan McGregor’s pants aren’t too short just for “ha-has”. Rather it is a symbol. When Henry is dying and laying on the road, Ewan’s pants appear shorter due to the angle at which Henry is viewing him. Therefore, during the the dream-state within Henry’s unconscious mind, Ewan’s pants always appear short.

  • aidansmom said:

    I just watched Stay. If you are on this site you probably had questions about your own interpretation. I think that Henry is caught between life and death after an accident which happens on his way back to art school with his family and girl. He is seeing his life flash before his eyes both his past and future. Those he sees standing around him while he is trying to remain conscious are integrated into his flashback just like a ringing phone, TV show or Alarm sometime find their way into our dreams. He hears himself being born, sees the manatee that he visited as a child, sees Athena dancing,acting, perhaps painting (however she is blended with Lila in his mind). They say at death you must make a decision to go into the light or go back. He viewed his future if he lived. He then pictures Athena’s life without him, perhaps attempting suicide because she is distraught over the loss of him but finally marries her psychiatrist and sees beauty again.The stolen/lost ring symbolizes this. He then proposes to her/lila. Someone said they were all gone and he realizes that he has no reason to stay.Finally he hears it is not his fault and is not going to hell so he leaves.

  • Sarah said:

    I understand Henry’s storyline. The only thing that confuses me is why Sam sees the vision of him and Lila together that prompts him to ask her out for coffee?

  • Jake said:

    Just saw the movie, and I like anyone reading this apparently, was confused about some of the things in the movie. The movie was shot beautifully, and if anything it’s a great example of how to use angles and special filters to portray a story. Now, the plot on the other hand left much to be desired. I didn’t have the fortune of seeing the box cover so I went into this movie cold. First, I was convinced that perhaps Evin Mcgregor was talking to all these people after they died, sort of like the sixth sense. Mainly because of the interactions between the two main characters and the ex-suicidal girlfriend plus the dead parents. But, then I doubted the Even Mcgregor’s sanity when things started repeating and the crash at the crash repeating. Finally, the whole movie was “explained” with the dream. This was a HUGE letdown. Suddenly all of the weird interactions with the dog, and the mother and father, and the girlfriend and the artist, and the actor, and the bookstore, are all turned to shit! Maybe the “explanation” was just a clip of one of the characters at the end in all these scenes. Bullshit. Then, wow!! the two beautiful (close up shot at the end, dilated pupils) main characters get together 😀 Maybe there’s something to this after all!!!! Anyone who says this is deep or introspective is woefully shallow.

  • William said:

    Waste of time. I was expecting that at the end everything would make sense, but not really.

  • isawcrates said:

    The guy above me is an idiot… People are so used to watching the same old type of movies that when they see a film of this depth, they give it ”two thumbs down” or say it sucks only because they aren’t used to being challenged. Afraid of thought. This movie is a masterpiece… The detail is given to us in intricate layers. All aspects of the film were fully utilzed to deliver the plot flawlessly… The use of backround noise, phrases, visuals and even music as clues is astounding. 5/5! Classic film. Bravo Forster.

  • Athan said:

    Most of you guys are right about the interpretations…Personnally i think its a very good movie and i find it sad to see some people trash it just because they re used to action packed narrow minded plots they re force fed every time they go to the movies…Films are art-art is diverse and open to interpretation.

  • kenneth said:

    Brilliant movie. A true piece of art itself. Now an all time favorite.
    This film is unbelievably AMAZING. just WOw.
    Max hutchinson, i have to say your interpretaion is dead on to mine.
    The last thing that goes is your sense of hearing before you die, so i can see why he would have a dream.
    Truely artistic and full of potential. People just need to be more open minded.
    Oh and the people with all the hate reviews… maybe u did waste your time, and thats your fault. GRATZ.

  • Barbara said:

    I loved the movie. What got me was the atmosphere … the music, the light etc. Guess people have different take on movies anyway. I also love Mulholland Drive, but a lot of my friends hate that movie.

  • Kimi said:

    Hey Max, you’re an idiot if you think the movie had anything to do with the doctor. It’s all about the guy in the dream world, because of the accident.
    That being said, it’s weird. It’s nice in all when you figure it out, or google it, but it’s weird to watch it in theatres, and i wouldn’t be shocked to find out this didn’t do well in theatres.

    The “different” approach to the movie is intriguing and different, and blah blah blah, but that doesn’t change the fact that people don’t like to guess and be confused/lost THAT much…….movies like this, i think, go TOO far in their attempts to be different or unique, and it just comes off as “WTF” instead of “oh wow i like the way they did that”

  • gigi said:

    honestly its been 5 years and im re-watching this movie for the third time…and you just keep picking up on the cues.. notice how in the final sequence both lila who gets locked in is on “floor 21″ of her studio and as sam is rushing out of the subway he is using “exit 21″, the ambulance carrying his away at the end was “21 21″ .. it’s 11:38 and henry is gonna die at midnight on his 21st b-day.

    the scene in the psych ward..with the woman yelling how “shes good and lovable”…then lila being all down on herself and asking sam if shes “good” and that she wants to be “remembered”

    also another huge one…in his flashback sequence in the strip club the pictures of him and athena are takn in the exact same spot where lila and sam were sitting outside before the hail storm…

    This is Synchronicity at its finest..temporally coincident occurrences of acausal events as Jung variously described… synchronicity as an acausal connecting principle, meaningful coincidence and acausal parallelism. and by seeing So many layers to this movie even after all this time. it has such freudien heinlich (uncanny) or cognitive dissonance it amazes even me – and im a psych grad.

    this movie is amazing and anyone who doesnt at least try to get that…well…i actually pity you.

  • Kimi said:

    Yeah yeah GiGi, i pity anyone who doesn’t understand this movie could honestly be construed as annoying.

    Did i hate it? Not at all….it was interesting. And at the end of the movie, once you’ve googled it, or once you’ve watched it 3+ times, it’s awesome. But most people want to watch a movie and find it awesome/enjoy it, as it goes. That’s all i’m saying.

    Most people don’t want to be “fooled/tricked/toyed-with” THIS MUCH. Slight trickery is okay, and even desired…..the same ol’ predictable movies or movies like Halloween version 6029, suck. So yes, making movie that is different, and makes you think, is awesome. But this is one of those movie where that desired effect of being “different” didn’t come through as simply different, it come through as WTF.

    And you said it yourself, you had to watch it 3 times to pick up all that stuff……..so you of all people should understand what i’m trying to say.

  • janmarie said:

    I never watch films unless I’m there at the beginning, but I stayed with this one, even tho I missed the opening scenes. Even with that, I was mesmerized. I will watch it again, the whole film this time.

    Henry was still alive when put in the ambulance; his head was uncovered. It’s possible real time stood still for him and he lived on in a come, waiting for his birthday to arrive. He did say he wanted to “wake up.”

    It’s a credit to the film that it is still being discussed in 2011.

  • Canko said:

    This is my favorite movie…No1… I recomend it for those who like David Lynch’s psychological triller movies

  • Lena said:

    I think you’re all wrong. I think this movie is about Henry’s last moments in life. As he’s dying, he’s looking up at the strangers who are there trying to help him, witnessing his death, asking him to ‘stay’ with them. (Hence, later on, Sam’s voice on his answering machine (a hint of a real moment as Henry’s dying) asking him to ‘stay’) He is badly injured, in a confused, jumbled state, obviously has a brain injury. (If you ever had a high fever or a brain injury than you’ll know this does happen to you.) His life flashes before his eyes and as hears the people around him talk, his mind incorporates them into his own life. He wishes that the car accident hadn’t happened at all and (in the movie) uses Sam as a tool to try to avoid reality…he wants Sam to save him from the horrible reality of being the one who was driving and who caused the accident. That’s what the entire movie is about. That’s why in the beginning he tells Sam that he ‘hears voices’ (who are, in fact, the voices from the real world, trying to help him at the car accident site) During the delusions, he slowly pieces the puzzle together, remembers who he is and that everyone he loved has died. The whole movie is from Henry’s point of view, even though we see it through Sam…
    I think by now you get what I mean. Once Henry realized that he’s dying, although he does not want to die, he knows it’s his time and so he ‘goes back’ to the bridge to face reality and ultimately his death.
    The movie also shows us how Henry thinks everyone was brought to be in the place to see him die. It symbolizes how intimate the moment is for him…(they stop whatever they are doing to watch him bleed before the window of the jewelry store). Sam and Lila, the two most important people to him at the moment, rush to the spot…
    However, I do think that this movie dibs a little in the paranormal as Henry is seeing the yet to be ‘relationship’ of the main characters, (and also a little of the other people who are there). As he’s dying, one has the feeling that his ‘soul’ peeked into their futures.
    I actually liked this movie. At first I thought that Sam was Henry, (a mental patient who forgot to take his pills, and the one who killed his parents. I thought that Lila was a delusion) But the ending was clear that it was, in fact, the other way around. Nobody we’ve seen during the movie has actually yet met until that point in Henry’s life. And the wedding ring was Henry’s all the time…he kept seeing it on Sam during his delusions, when all this time it was his happy secret.

  • Ratih said:

    Honestly, I was confussed with the plot of the film. The scene transitions make the film more difficult to be understood actually. For me it’s like watching alice in wonderland, looks like every character in the movie wasn’t a friendly character, the circumtances was weird and cold.

  • mr.anonymous said:

    If you say the movie is bad I would say you haven´t understood it right and Ewan´s pant´s are too short because that´s what Henry sees when Sam is helping him.

  • Lilly said:

    I’ve read a few of these comments and just finished watching the movie. You have good examples about whats in dreams that also appear in this movie… like metaphors. This whole movie is based on what Ryan’s character is percieving between life and death and how everything he sees, from the boy and his mother to Ewan and Naomi’s characters, it’s all being put together by his last dying thoughts. Now that I think about it, this movie is like “The Lovely Bones” because the main character is in the interval between life and death and everything that is occuring in that movie is about the man that killed her, and her trying to escape the secret room underground. ‘Stay’ is a great movie, you just have to watch it a few times before you really get the feeling of what is happening and recognize the dream-like examples, (the people walking in threes, the constant scene changes, the people who confused Ewan’s characted with someone else, etc.) It’s all like a dream, but for Ryan’s character, it’s the interval between life and death.

  • viadma said:

    Gregg is right, it is so obvious ones you think of it from that point of view! If you don´t think of the movie like that, it is very hard to figure the movie out as it easily throws you of course :)

    It took me some time to realize but ones I did, everything clicked.

    Brilliant mind teaser!

  • Sandra said:

    To those snobs that felt compelled to mention their Psychology degree as though it makes you an authority, I don’t believe film critics,directors,writers,etc are required to have a PSYCH DEGREE. The plain truth is,this was a confusing movie,and most of us would rather just try to enjoy a movie rather than have to analyze it or watch it several times just to figure out the point. It does take away from the enjoyment,and after all,isn’t that what MOST of us watch movies for!?

  • Carlene said:

    Just a thought, but maybe the symbolism of the walrus comes from ‘I am the Walrus’ by the Beatles. The first line of that song is, “I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together.” Kind of like the dream state blurring of identities in this film.

  • kevin said:

    Utterly useless boring movie!

  • Beck said:

    This movie is brilliant. To all those who find it ‘dumb’ or ‘a waste of time,’ you need to open up your minds. The actors, the filming, the symbolism…. all amazing! Definitely one of my favourite movies and I will be watching again soon!

  • Mimi Nissan said:

    Actually the director made his pants too short because from Henry’s (Ryan Gosling) point of view Sam is crouching so his pants rise up. I thought It was a really great movie, it’s one of my favorites.

  • william said:

    Yeah,this movie was total crap,and its a shame because there were some very talented actors involved.Any nonsense about people just not being smart or deep enough to get this movie is a joke,it was a weak plot,actually a plot barely existed at all.The whole”gotcha this entire movie was just a dream in some dying guy’s head” was nothing more than a copout as far as im concerned.At the end of the movie I was left with a feeling of being ripped off,like i was still waiting for the punchline.What a waste of time.I mean really,you could insert that idea into a thousand other movies and basically go wherever you’d like as far as plot and sequence without having to justify any of it because,well, it was only in his head…like i said, a copout. peace all

  • Luke said:

    It’s like a Miro painting. No meaning. Just a nice combination of lines and colors. Who tries to find a sense or a meaning, does not understand art. The real art has no sense or meaning. Like life. Precisely who finds a meaning or a sense is the “dumb”.

  • Jenia said:

    the STAY is brilliant, and this is why we watch such movies: to think about it, to reflect. when i decided to watch this movie, i knew it was not going to be a “relaxing easy watching”. if you want to watch an easy watching movie where everything is clear and no thoughts required then watch those. they are being produced for such purposes. and the director of STAY didn’t expect crowds to love his movie in the first place anyway.

  • Jack said:

    This movie was really good. I like to watch something that challenges you to think, and to really pay attention; and also has the value of being re-watch-able and it being different again (if you want to look at the clues and learn more about the film)

    If you don’t like it then you’re probably just a dumb*ss. Go watch some Hollywood bullsh*t to feed your sh*tty mind.

    Ha, only kidding! If you didn’t like it, then you didn’t like it. Not your fault you are who you are 😉 Go and find something else to watch. There is no wrong or right really. Just expressions of opinion and creativity!

    Maybe go make your own film, right, right?!

  • Gio said:

    Intelligent and original movie.
    For those who felt unfulfilled at the ending; unfortunately you were expecting an explanation. Explanation can be found throughout the movie and the final scene informs us that we just lived Henry’s dream. This dream is a transition between here and there (life and death).
    In Henry’s dream we notice all the characters of the movie and we see each one of them at the final scene. Details of Sam’s life are created by Henry, everything is designed by Henry. Nothing is real.
    Nevertheless, the message is beautiful: guilt and pain can be horrible but the beauty is worth the stay.
    Not a blockbuster but as I mentioned, an intelligent and original movie.

  • Anton Kuz said:


    The meaning of life is survival and reproduction.

    The “secondary” meaning of life, the fictive one, is yours to create.

  • chukky said:

    STAY. I didn’t watch it from the beginning guess that’s I came here to understand more. Thanks to all that commented on this movie. Frankly, if I didn’t get the meaning of the story from watching it half way, I don’t think that makes me an idiot. It’s not too good to ✆ people names on a forum like this just because they air their views.

  • skaphile said:

    I was glad to see so many comments regarding this film. I think it’s as simple and complex as this, it’s his life flashing before Henry’s eyes before he dies. What seems so detailed is just an amalgam of dream intermixed with memories.

  • Euronova said:

    I’ve come back to this particular blog for a few years now, and am overjoyed every time people leave new amazing interpretations and clues they found that I missed. I myself, LOATHED this movie when I first saw it, because I fancied myself as a rather savvy internet movie critic. I found it overly artsy, pretentious, and trying too hard to be David Lynch (whose work I adore). When I actually got over myself, I watched it again 2 years later, traveled back to this blog, and the full meaning of the movie punched me in the face. The symbolism, atmosphere, existentialism, what have you. I fell in love with it, and truly FELT it enough with all my heart to give it a place in my list of top favorite movies. The amount of detail put into it astounds me, it’s like a new discovery every time, like an entire intricate and organic universe. I feel like kicking myself in the head for ever finding it anything but brilliant.

    I never had the ‘confusion’ regarding the dream that a lot of the people here had. Within the first minute of the movie, I understood that Henry was already dead, therefore the ‘twist’ and ‘cop-out’ a lot of you keep mentioning was nonexistent for me. It’s not meant to surprise you anyway…how it might have is beyond me. But then, these days few people ever pay attention to what they’re watching. They put the movie on, go make a sandwich, then come back and demand the movie for an explanation. Truly good movies cannot be that basic, folks, that you can tell what’s been going on from any point in the movie, or have it explained in a matter of seconds by someone who WAS watching.

    All of the clues and interpretations of this movie aside (since I have yet to think of something that hasn’t already been mentioned thousands of times), I think the reason those of you who don’t understand or don’t like the movie keep getting snapped at by those that do, psych grads, critics, and simple fans alike, is because you come across as…jerks? Instead of saying ‘yeah, not my kind of movie’ you go instantly go to the infantile ‘duuurh it sucks, anyone who thinks this is deep is f*ckin duuuuumb. Or trying too hard to sound smart, derp derp.’ Thus, everyone’s general response will be along the lines of ‘You’re intellectually challenged. Go watch some Hollywood junk food for the masses, you blithering ignoramus.’

    Anyways, this movie is infinitely brilliant, a truly unique gem that I will continue to watch for years to come. Those of you who say ‘well it sucked at the box office’, so did Donnie Darko. So did a NUMBER of ingenious cult classics. Bombing at the box office simply means it did not appeal to the brainless masses.

    My rant is over.

  • Cid said:

    I couldn’t agree more with Euronova’s comment (except I never went through the “loathing” stage of this movie)

    Well said.

    Someone from my work told me I had to watch it, and I went in not even knowing what it was and with no expectations.
    Needless to say I was blown away, and will continue to ponder it for some time, I’m sure.

  • Sandy said:

    Okey, so, I won’t read all the comments here, but I wonder why it was mainly Sam’s pov and not Henry’s? Don’t understand that really.

  • Nicholas said:

    The entire movie was wrapped up into the period of time when you die. The point being made is that as one dies, reality begins to slip. The world makes less and less sense, until the finality of death where it becomes totally incomprehensible. If you watch the movie, you will see everything clearly cut out and quite “normal”, and as the movie progresses, the editing, lighting, and plot, and even the background noise becomes more and more “muddy” – people being mistaken for each other, the blind seeing again, quicker and more dramatic cuts, and looping moments (like the infinite stairway that lead to the same room Ewan’s character was in)

    The concept of Henry Letham planning to kill himself is confusing, but here’s my theory – Henry is fighting with his will to live. After the crash, he was on the edge of death, and so during the movie, all Henry’s threats of death are really his subconscious telling him to give up. The force fighting back is the word “stay”. Sam and Lila repeat that word constantly in the final scene, and that is what keeps Henry alive.

    The macroscopic aspect of the overall movie and relating it to a slow death was what really sold it for me. editing=solid. visuals=solid. acting=solid. What’s so wrong with this movie?

    I think the reason this movie was crapped on so much by critics was because it didn’t seek to satisfy the viewer with suspense or drama. It was trying to convey a concept, namely death, and how it relates to the fact that once we die, nothing matters anymore…or something like that.

  • hej I: said:

    I get it now, the movie is taking place in the second before Henry dies

  • Sea said:

    It was a great movie, but i missed the beginning of the movie (also the crash) so i actually didnt really understand the story when it was finished but i had some clues. Now ive read some explanations and i get it. I feel bad for missing the beginning of the movie..

  • Mitch H said:

    I missed the part of the crash as well on TV yesterday. However in the end scene it became clear for me that in the ‘real world’ none of the charecters had a connection, that the whole thing I did see had taken place in Henry’s brain. All the interpersonal relations in the ‘dream world’ only exist in Henry’s mind while he’s trying to find peace. He’s overwelmed by feelings of guilt, the characters in the dream world are nothing more then a visualisation by Henry’s brain of an internal struggle he’s dealing with while he actualy is dying on the bridge.

    As soon as in the real world he’s told the accident wasn’t his fault, that his front tire blew and there was nothing he could have done, he seems to find his peace.

    I think this movie was a briliant masterpiece none the less, life´s not allways about happy endings, nor does it always make sence. It´s just Henry´s death experienced from both views, his and the people that are witnessing it.

  • Ann said:

    I agree with all the excellent interpretations of this movie. I came here to look for an explanation too. Although, I wouldn’t recommend this movie to watch for someone who is grieving the loss of someone they love. My mother just passed away a short time ago, and I still am not accepting her death. When I watched this movie, and then at the end, watched Henry (Ryan Gosling) lingering between life and death, I just grieved for my Mother all the more. But, the movie is very good and is very deep once it is explained by someone with an understanding of psychology. Its either a hated or loved movie, no in-between. I hated the movie at first. I had fallen asleep watching it, and was dreaming of my mother, and then woke up to the end of the movie with Henry dying. I was so depressed and wanted to see my mother. I had been thinking about this movie for a few days and wanted to see what everyone’s explanation of the movie was. Now it makes sense.

  • Akhtar said:

    I understand people who don’t like this movie… and I also understand people who do like it. In my case, I was disappointed to know that it was only the subconscious of Ryan. I was expecting more than that, as an explanation to what was happening in the movie. Apart from that, everything was perfect… I preferred “6th sense” which seemed boring from the beginning, but had a great twist and made the story a successful one. I also preferred “Fight Club” than “Stay”. But I have the intention to watch the movie one more time just to see everything from a different perspective now. As I just said, everything was perfect about this movie, except that I had a higher expectation about the explanation. And all those people who think they have understood more because they are deep thinkers make me want to laugh. They are like the so called ‘artists’ who can see beauty even in crap. LOL

  • Casandra said:

    Ive just watched is movie and found it absolutely facinating. I noticed the ‘twins” & ‘triplets’ but didn’t understand what that was about. I’m not someone that usually likes this genre but I’m in a dark place in my life right now and the movie hit a nerve with me.

    Husband didn’t like it at all but I most certainly did.

  • kaya said:

    Great movie – all about Ryan coming to terms with what he has just done, whilst in a state of shock in the minutes before he dies.
    He needed Sam to tell him it wasn’t his fault, which he doesn’t do until just before he dies.
    Gosling is a fantastic actor for his years and chooses excellent roles.

  • kaya said:

    Also – the scene transitions happen as if looking up! Nice

  • nihan said:

    i didnt read all the comments but i want to draw attention to one thing.
    i saw comments mainly trying to find out if it was Henry`s dream before he was dead or Sam`s life after. one strong clue would be Sam telling Henry that he promises he didnt steal his ring in the beginnigng of the movie.
    so i was thinking maybe Sam met the love of his life after this accident (blond girl), got the same ring to propose because of his subconscious and couldnt get over the people who died in the accident and started to dream..

  • Ry said:

    all i could think whilst watching this was the similarities between itself and Shutter Island {2010). Throughout the movie i inadvertently felt as if i was analysing the movie too much and i might spoil the ending, however it has become apparent to me that this was the intention.

  • aman said:

    why did sam see images of him and lylla towards the end of the movie, right before he asks her out for coffee???
    henry was long dead by then so it couldn’t have been a part of his dream..

  • daniel bowman said:

    Ok wait I just watched this movie and im lost . But seeing these comments im not alone maybe this is what the movie is about to see may people they can get to go WHAT!!!

  • Shirley said:

    I watched the movie last night and enjoyed it very much even though I was confused. Reading the comments above helped tremendously for partial understanding. One thing I noticed that no one mentioned is a lot of yellow, such as the telephone, Sam’s pants, etc. Did anyone catch that symbolism? I will watch it again just so I can relate a lot of those weird happenings to the ending. It certainly is thought provoking, which is something I like.

  • Donna said:

    My son recommended this movie to me. I absolutely loved it. The script is amazing, along with the editing and cinematography. Just astounding. Trying to understand the symbolism is part of enjoying the movie. I will definitely be watching it again!

  • Samuel Spangler said:

    STAY. Was there a ‘message?’ Was it supernatural? Was it psychological? Was EVERYBODY dead or dying? Am I dead or dreaming right now? Is there a perception of an alternate life/universe/dimension? -In our daydreams and memories we recreate & structure our experiences as we’d want them to be or ‘should have been.’ We all seem continually & organically to be re-configuring ‘reality.’ This film reminds us of our on-going participation in this life-long pasttime. Perhaps, at this moment, we are engaged in a dream that we believe to be lucid. Each time one watches this film they may see something different & then subtly redefine their understanding of the entire story. What I thought ‘life’ was when I was 10 years old has undergone countless reappraisals and I still have a long way to go. I am unable to exit to any sideline at some time and say that any one of my perceptions was the ‘right’ one or ‘real’ one. But, altogether, a general direction is being indicated, even though I can’t see where it may end.(Is there any reason for me to expect that anything should END?)
    As a film, STAY draws our attention away from the tangible to the intangible. It reminds us that we are not only required to report to work tomorrow, we also have to weigh the mystery of life and accept some impossibilities that aren’t required to make sense.
    This film STAYs with you, as a mythic story of any genuine strength should. The point is not whether this film either creates or resolves confusion, but does it provoke thought or alternate insights about being alive. In that respect it has been surprisingly successful (as my response to it strongly indicates). Highly recommended for those who don’t have all the answers and definitely NOT recommended for those who DO have all the answers.

  • Jason B said:

    In my opinion this was a great movie and this lengthy discussion speaks fir itself. Thank you

  • Emma said:

    I watched the film vaguely but its fairly simple to read. There are so many metaphors in the film. 1)hamlet- henrys last name was letham which is hamlet backwards, hamlet faced the same torment that henry felt, that of survivor guilt, just as hamlet murdered his wife, henry had (through no fault of his own) caused the death of innocents. Both hamlet and henry had the choice to stay among the living or cross over.
    2) reality and fantasy- henry was in a daze of confusion suffering from survivor guilt. Looking around him he sees people that become part of the world he creates. Their words at the end of the movie are the comments they say whilst he lays dying. He did what most fantasists do in confusion and piece together the wrong puzzle, his story is almost transfixed on making the audience hate him, we believe he is cold hearted. Basically a 2+2 =5 scenario. Its like he re-does what happened in the real world to make him feel better about not wanting to stay.
    3) when he sees athenas face at the end of the movie, its in an angel like disposition, at this point he asks her to marry him then passes away.
    4) ewan’s character blends alot of the time into henrys character, this leads us to assume that he is re-living his life through him. We lean at the end that ryan & his gf are in actual fact strangers, he claims earlier on in the film that henry had stolen the ring he had got for his gf but we learn at the end that in actual fact they were strangers.
    5) sams gf was supposed to have attempted an overdose and i believe that this would have happened after henrys death had sam not asked her out for coffee. In a way he couldnt save henry but could save her.
    6) sams gf is an artist, a painter and its she who reveals to sam about the painter henry was fixated on, art has many representations its creativity, emotion, expression, freedom. He blamed himself for the accident and used his favourite artists death as validity for his own.
    7) representation of the dreamworld- i believe that the movie was a combination of henry wanting to do good before he allowed himself to go, he brought two lovers together, saved the life of sams gf by bringing the two together because this would have happened had they not met, he proposed to athena who became the angel, the last thing he saw before he passed away, he gave his father sight back, used sams character to gain forgiveness from his mother, saved the life of his friend.
    It is a deep movie with many ways of reception. In simple terms, a man who never felt comfortable with life had an accident that gave him the oppertunity to stay on earth or leave. Sams gf mentions to him fairly early in the movie that she doesnt want to be forgotten and neither did henry. He portrays himself a lot through hidden Metaphors in the movie. Like when the boy loses his balloon and the guy carnt catch it, thats a symbol for release, freedom, to soar without a care and the fact his mother says they can go and get another one which could symbolise life, the fact that people (like the balloon) pass away and others are born. Henry tranistioned through most of the characters, he seeked redemption, sympathy, completion, he wanted his death to have meaning.
    I know a lot of people are confused with it being a movie about henry yet more focused on sam, assumadly this is due to the fact that henry is barely conscious. Sam is alive and very lost, his life lacks meaning, he is a psychologist and should be able to determine whats happening but he carnt. He is the only character that us dragged ito henrys reality whilst everyone else is completely unaware. Maybe henry thought sam would be easy to manipulate, we see this when his character dissappears and ventures as he pleases. This is a reality henry created yet a fantasy that sam has been forced into, making him doubt his own reality.
    Overall the film has a gritty reality, romance, death, betrayel, forgiveness, its thrilling and compelling at the same time, whilst questioning what is fantasy and reality? Can they have an effect on one another?
    2 thumbs up =)
    oh and tonight is the first time i watched it too but this is just my opinion on it xxxx

  • gaz said:

    there is far to much confusion about this movie yet in my humble opinion
    it’s being over complicated by people.I feel it’s a movie that can be
    interpretated in many ways.whether you believe it has a sub plot or double sub plot or even go beyond that
    surely with all these plots and back stories future glimpses people can
    use there imagination and enjoy a good film that makes you do what most
    films don’t nowadays THINK!

  • Shimazaki said:

    Emma, very well said, i couldnt agree more with u. Its incredible how many symbols u saw in that movie and u watched it only once. I wouldnt mind if u add me on facebook, we can talk about movies etc ( if u want ofc ) http://www.facebook.com/shimazaki.yasuhiro.mage.rogue

  • Shimazaki said:

    Very well said Emma!! I totaly agree with everything u just wrote. However kinda incredible that u saw all those symbols in the movie by watching it only once, your concentration must be pretty good while watching movies ( good ones, i find this movie good also ofc. )

  • Bex said:

    Fascinating reading the explanations here. I missed many of the details. The crouched pose + shortened pants… the blending of Lila and Athena. Thanks for all the input guys. I have one thing I really want to understand though… Why does Lila find Henry’s signature on all the paintings, then freaks out like she understands something, and then goes downstairs and can’t unlock the gate. I don’t get it at all. Whose paintings are those? Why are his signatures on them? Where is she going? What did she realise?

  • falseemail fiftyeight said:

    It is obvious that Henry connects via his dreamscape his final thoughts, feelings, life experiences and regrets etc with the faces in the crowd during the final scene. The metaphors and ambiguity Henry experiences that are morphed with the crowd are fascinating to find and to dissect – I’m sure I have missed many

    But, the key moment (for me), and one that has hardly been mentioned here – and the piece (for me) that tied up all the loose ends – was the extended “deja vu” of Lila that Sam experiences with Henry’s ring – perhaps Henry had a glimpse into a parallel universe and/or had some type of psychic connection with Sam and vice versa Sam’s experience with Henry’s dying dream scape – was it all JUST a dream (in and out of consciousness of a dying man) or was there more?

    How & Why did Sam see Henry’s ring as an extended vision connected directly to Lila and to his future? What had Henry really seen? Or what was just imagined & then mysteriously “sent” to Sam and how fate or serendipity or a deja vu or a physic connection or any combination of the unexplained connects from a dying Henry and that breathes new possibilities into Sam and Lila – is an ending that I found quite beautiful, profound and still mysterious

    Absolutely loved it

    If you liked Stay – you MUST SEE “LULU on The Bridge” with Harvey Keitel, Mira Sorvino – don’t read the synopsis, find it and watch it with an uncluttered mind

    I hope this isn’t posted twice by mistake

  • Amber H. said:

    Edited version:

    I completely agree with most of the explanations here but here’s another spin I’d like to add.

    Did anyone notice that Sam was the central character in the movie? Henry was important but the movie followed Sam (Sam & his girlfriend, Sam & Henry’s old psychiatrist, Sam & etc…) It was a movie about Henry but Sam was the main character.

    So what if the world that Henry imagined was a REAL world? What if Sam’s existence and his whole universe was legit and after Henry entered it, it started to warp?

    I say this because not only is Sam the ‘central’ character that we follow in the movie, but when Henry shoots himself, he disappears. I understand that he disappears because the surface message is that it’s not ‘real’ and Henry’s dying, but what if it WAS real and when Henry died the whole universe did. Remember Sam saying something like, “if this is a dream, the whole world is in it.”

    Edit: Sam’s world being an actual reality (for them) would explain why he had visions of him and Lila after Henry died when he asked her for coffee. It was like he knew a life with her before, but he couldn’t put his finger on it. [We do get dejavue from our parallel universe counterparts after all. ]

    I think Sam’s world was a real as yours and mine but it got wiped out. Let me put it this way, imagine if our busy lives were just part of somebody elses dream and once they wake up, it’s gone. They go on with their real lives while we no longer exist. Food for thought.

  • Gwen said:

    I loved this movie. I don’t think I could watch it more than once though. At the end, when Henry shot himself and was on the bridge dying. I lost it. I mean LOST it. I “got” it. The folks I watched with were going “what?” “what?”
    The idea of dying, knowing that you were driving a car that was in an accident, your whole life, past, present and future, in the car and gone at your hands. Having to deal with that guilt, that helplessness IN YOUR OWN HEAD, while you yourself are dying?? That is the definition of Hell, of being completely and utterly alone. The idea of that, broke my heart. What he went through or what you could imagine yourself going through, the internal struggle of it…putting out a cigarette on your arm, because you are worthless, when he was talking to his parents, his father being blind, not able to look at him…the whole movie was about asking for forgiveness from yourself, would you forgive yourself for that? Could you? Yeah I cried for like an hour after I watched it…ha.
    So that is what I took from it, I did like it. Very much. Thanks for letting me share. :)

  • Carolyn said:

    Well I didn’t understand the film and I am by no means dumb. I wish people would respect the fact that some people just didn’t get it and would require an explanation. It doesn’t mean they are stupid, dumb or anything like that. I’ve watched plenty of films where I’ve had to explain endings or plots to other people.
    So please have some respect. And if a person just doesn’t like it, respect that too.

  • Sarah said:

    This movie is a work of art. I’m very happy I saw it.

    It was funny looking at all the comments because there is such a clear divide between people who hated it and would give it a 0-2 rating. THen others who think it’s an 8-10. Nothing really in the middle. It shows which people appreciate + enjoy art, and those people we all know who say– “This movie is waste of time” and are the same people that go to art museums and say, “I could have made a painting better than that when I was 5″.

    I double majored in Fine Arts and Psychology, so this movie is exactly the kind of stuff I’M into. I didnt know what it was about before I watched it, and I’d never heard of it either. Out of hundreds, maybe thousands of movies I’ve seen in my life, there’s only about 10 that deeply confused me to the point I had to look up explanations online .

    I’ve had many theories, such as

    This is all actually happening to Sam; he’s become delusional after witnessing the accident and suffers from post traumatic stress. So this could be his waking life, or his dream. Or a combination of both? When you see something that traumatic, your brain can go to points you never thought possible, in order to cope with it. So, the end shows WHY Sam has become so delusional. The beginning, with Henry surviving the car crash unharmed is how Sam’s brain wants to see henry, which is alive. Sam would rather think of Henry’s death as an “accident” rather than a suicide. The whole movie Ssam keeps wanting to save him, to make himself feel better.

  • rpg said:

    The bulk of the movie is Henry’s “dream” while dying on the bridge.
    That’s the literal part. At the end, Sam seeing a glimpse of the “dreamlife” with Lila implies that Henry’s dream was possibly not just a dream but more powerful than that. Two clues during the film:
    …”The Buddhists are right, life is just a dream…” and
    “…(Henry’s) imagination is so fertile, he’ll create entire worlds with his art…”

    He was dreaming while dying, but what is a dream? What is reality?
    Is it possible things aren’t so binary and it’s not one or the other?

    Thought provoking film and well made technically.
    Lighten up an open up a bit, you haters.

  • Daniel said:

    Shelby, your comment is so beautiful!

  • Mary said:

    I must say, I was waiting for it all to come together in the end. It seemed to me that there were many possibilities and I just did not get the “big meaning” to tie it all together. I love deep movies, but this one left me lost and a bit sad because I really did want a ending to explain all that was going on. like, the movie “7 Pounds” with Will Smith. That was a movie that started a little confusing, but then tied together nicely in the end and was such a beautiful message that really made me think about mental anguish and repenting for ones only way to find peace. Just a WOW movie. Maybe I will watch this again and perhaps see more, just was not sure if it Henry was dead and could not find peace so he was trying to find it through Sam and needed Sam to get him to the next level. Im happy so many got it. I just wish I did too! : (

  • Tainted Prfection said:

    After having read every comment posted here, I have to say I totally disagree with Max and pretty much agree with rpg. No offense to Max, but the two most dangerous people in the world are law students and psychology students. They want to apply what they’re learning, but because they’re only operating with the fringe of knowledge as students, their conclusions and advice are the most suspect of all. I know, because I’ve studied both. Once you get a taste of higher learning, you want to take it out for a walk, rather than remaining silent until you’ve actually been licensed to be qualified to give the advice. Worse yet, you tend to find deeper meaning in everything, when there are just some things that are right in front of your face.

    As for the movie, I think rpg was right on, but I’m going one step further. The entire explanation of the movie is in the scene with twins and triplets. The answer is in the triplets. This is a movie about the many sides of people. There is Henry on the bridge dying, then there is Sam and Lila, also sides of Henry. He possesses both characters characteristics. He is both the man with the engagement ring in love (Sam), but he is also Lila. Yes, Sam is a doctor, but he doesn’t identify himself as a psychiatrist in the end, only a doctor. Lila is a nurse, not an art student or artist. It is Henry’s creation that Sam is his psychiatrist and Lila is an artist (which he is), which explains why Lila at the end has all of Henry’s paintings. It would appear that Henry, in his morph at the end between reality on the bridge and slipping away from reality, uses both characters in his dream to show both sides of himself. Sam, as his conscience who is trying to save him, who loves and wants to marry Athena, telling him it’s not his fault, to cope with his guilt, and Lila as the emotionally shattered part of himself that wants to die. He wanted to marry Athena, Lila said she never had anyone ask her to marry her, she tried to commit suicide, in the beginning of the movie, she asks to speak with him because she believes she can help him, she’s stopped taking her meds, he refuses to take meds, she hates her own work, Henry identifies with the artist who tried to commit suicide because he hated his own work. What it seems to be, leaving out all the psychobabble is this and it’s pretty simple: The entire movie is Henry’s creation, except the last 10 minutes. Dr. Levy isn’t his prior psych, she’s just another bystander on the road he incorporates. If she were really a doctor, she wouldn’t have made the comment about hearing you’re not supposed to move injured people, she’d already know because psychiatrists attend med school. Yes, Sam and Lila really exist, but not together as they are seen in the movie. Their identities as psych and artist are Henry’s split of himself, not reality, and Lila having survived a suicide attempt and her wanting to talk to him is, in Henry’s mind, the part of his conscience that is trying to save himself and Sam is the part of his being that keep chasing him to help him but can never quite catch up, hence him dying on the bridge. What I got from Bob Hoskins character is just a metaphor for clarity. In trying to understand the devastation of the circumstances, he seeks clarity and what better way to show clarity than a blind man who can suddenly see clearly? In fact, the entire movie is a metaphor. The movies of Henry’s life in the bar is a metaphor for “your life flashing before your eyes before you die”. You see him as a child, a teen. Before the car crashes at the end, you see him and Athena in the front seat, and Athena is asking Naomi Watts, who you see for a split second in the back seat, ‘how they stay in love after all these years’ but it’s actually his parents in the back seat. Athena isn’t really in the front seat, it was his dream they’d actually be together, which is why when you see her dance come to an end in that one scene, he’s seeing her for what she was, a girl he loved from a distance, which is shown by him standing out in the rain looking at her going about her life. she’s just standing there alone. The ending is the question. His face is not covered. Does he survive and heal himself as Lila did? Which part of him wins? The one who shoots himself in the mouth in front of Sam or the victim with a side head wound lying on the ground? That’s the only part of the movie that is UNCLEAR.

  • Stanley Kubrick said:

    If nobody has already said this, Ewan’s pants are too short because Ryan see’s him while he’s crouching, pulling his pant legs up. It’s not put in there for “ha-hahs”. It’s deliberate, and I for one find it’s one of my favorite parts of the movie. But its only one of the very many details Mark Forster and David Benioff thought appropriate to conceive and include. The whole movie is like a treasure hunt

  • Stanley Kubrick said:

    Ah Mimi Nissan you got to it first

  • Ric Mason said:

    Majoring in psychology has nothing to do with being able to understand this movie. If you enjoy mindless meanderings with great acting and cinematography, this one’s for you. If you need things to make sense and don’t enjoy leaving reality for a couple of hours, then this movie isn’t for you.

    Think it’s that simple, actually.

  • veronica said:

    The COLLECTIVE UNCONSCIOUS explains most of the movie. I saw the movie tonight…well the last 45 mins. I was not following it in a linear fashion so the thought that kept popping in my head was that the synchronicities seemed to say that we were in and out of the collective unconscious. Which would explain the melding of all the intimate details of the main charcters..especially in the final moments. Of course Henry, is the conductor of the dream through most of the movie. I was especially drawn to the line in the Hamlet scenes “nothing is good or bad,lest thinking make it so” this means to me that the mind decides what is real and not real. A clear clue that we were dealing with fractured reality.

  • Jodi said:

    I love this movie, it’s my all time favorite. It makes you think and every time you watch it’s a different experience. It’s not one that spoon feeds the answers to you – so if you like that, this movie isn’t for you.

    Henry is having a near death experience…that’s fascinating to me. Very eastern philosophy/religion, etc.

    Henry and Sam are one in the same. Henry is unaware he’s having an NDE and Sam slowly meshes with Henry as time goes on. Characteristics of Henry are shown in every main character. Naomi’s charter is an artist, and so is he. But also represents the gf b/c she’s talking about wanting to be remembered – for example.

    Henry and Sam are at odds (even though they represent the same person) – Henry just saw his family die as the accident happens and he is dealing with a ton of guilt (manifested in his near death experience). He wants to give in and die (suicide as symbolism) but Sam (and essentially the doctor Sam) want him to live.

    Every shot is shown to look like a bridge – i.e. this is what Henry see’s. Sounds in the background are what Henry hears. The confusion you experience watching the film – Henry’s is confused and doesn’t quite realize he’s having a near death experience.

    If you watch the apartment scenes, they start out in a high rise and as Henry gets closer to death the apartment is sinking. Running down the spiral stair case is also symbolic of death coming.

    His father seeing again could represent the forgiveness his father is giving Henry for the accident and the father moving on – to the afterlife.

    So many other things, a lot of symbolism. Watch the movie with the director’s commentary. I’d advise to read about NDE’s and also theories about DMT being released in our bodies during death/trauma. Makes you experience weird things (trip out). You must have a very open mind to get this movie to it’s full extent. I really believe it’s a masterpiece. There are sooo many other easter eggs/clues and symbolism but if I were to cover them I might as well write a book lol.

  • Lisa said:

    I watched the film this afternoon. Admittedly, I was a bit confused at times and the end brought much together for me except I was not 100% certain if Henry had died at the end. I thought he had while on the ground and did see where he was in a body bag but his face was exposed which led me to wonder. I also thought the last minutes of the movie beginning with our seeing the accident, were incredibly intense and powerful. You could feel Gosling’s pain, sorrow, and feelings of responsibility. I thought Gosling in particular was brilliant throughout, what a terrific actor. I noticed “Sam’s” short trousers but not until I read this blog did I have an understanding of that being the view of Sam that Gosling, “Henry” had while on the ground. I watched the movie on TV so unfortunately a director’s cut is not available but I do plan on watching it again now that I have a better understanding. I appreciate most of the comments on this blog. I really enjoy this kind of movie that requires one use his/her mind. This movie may not be for everyone, but it’s right up my alley and I really enjoyed it.

  • Tony said:

    Just watched this movie today, twice! Once alone and then once with my wife. Have also read most of the above comments and can understand the difference of opinion and confusion.
    Right off I was thinking Jacobs Ladder and Mulholland Drive (another Naomi flick. To me it was obvious this had to be someone’s “last battle”. The question was who’s in my mind. I still thought it was very well done but also thought they could have made it better. I kept thinking that I hoped they could put it all together. I also enjoyed watching it tghrough my wife’s eyes occasionally stopping the tape to discuss. I was still looking for clue’s second time around.
    YES the ending WAS a bit of a copout and I understand those opinions. It would have been impossible for them to tie so many details together but we must realize that dreams and especially “last battles” can be incoherent. To the first I can vouch and thankfully not the second.
    I am into thought provoking movies though and this was that.One thing I didn’t notice anyone else saying here is as they are going down the spiral staircase where Ewan falls, there were obvious columns of DNA (the symbol)on those stairs. This threw me off some. Also the baby crying?
    Anyway the obsession with the artist who killed himself I just don’t get. Also the guy on the train who tells him to put out the butt? He was also the owner of the bookstore. Also Naomi having tried to kill herself is left unexplained IMO.
    Either way give me a flick like this over Iron man any day. I’d like to recommend The White Ribbon for those who like to watch a good mind %#@!!

  • JB said:

    Very artistic and thought provoking movie. The reveal is provided 2/3 into the movie when Hoskins character is healed from blindness by Henry and tells Ewen McGregor that (paraphrase) ” the Buddhist were right, life’s an illusion.” Moments later you see Ewen and Gosling staring out of different subway cars and seeing each other passing in the opposite direction. The aforementioned reveal coupled with the symbolic twins and triplets throughout the movie makes me believe that the movie’s theme is we all have a parallel life and alter ego. Since Gosling was dying he traveled into the other life wherein he intersects with his twin Ewen. IMHO. A good stylish movie that’s much more entertaining that the garbage some critics believe are good movies.

  • Kay said:

    I just watched this movie for the first time (I just simply was not interested when it was originally released). The film is subjectively brilliant or a flop. It’s depends on who is watching. Movies are intended to “move” you, and different people are movied and entertained by different things. The clearly aimed more at the artistic types or those simply seeking to unravel a videographic puzzle. To me, it was on point and gave my brain a mini workout during AND after the movie. I found myself having false epiphanies only to go back and second guess realizations and conclusion, which for a thinker who enjoys the challenge, can be quite entertaining! But the movie misses the mark for those seeking a thriller (as I often seek as well).

    Outside of things that have likely been mentioned in previouse comments, I strongly doubt that Henry dies in this film. I say this because his face is not cover in the end (1), he walks away from the crash with his back turned as if he is walking into his future (2), Sam has another flash in the end scene which to me shows that we are still in Henry’s head and he is alive (3). He’s not “dreaming” at all. He is not asleep. He is drifting and near death and therefore sees his life flash before him through the characters helping him on the bridge. Sam is Henry. Lila is Henry. They represent different parts of his personality. When Henry survives in the end after finally accepting that it’s not his fault, Sam and Lila, once strangers, are now dramatically changed by the experience and are now connected. Sam isn’t having the vision at the end. It is still Henry’s vision.

  • te said:

    Fascinating movie. Reminds me of “The Life Before Her Eyes” 2007
    I’m glad I found all these explanations.
    I need to watch it again

  • Alex said:

    Weak movie. Idk why it was from the perspective of Ewan’s character instead of Ryan’s since he was the one in the dream/in-between world.

  • Sunnyla said:

    RPG’s got it right. It is a bigger film than even the interpretation that Ryan Gosling is having a vision before death that extends out to three days. I believe this interpretation also stands firm, but is nested inside another layer of the film, which is a construct of the idea that “the Buddhists got it right; life is an illusion,” expressed by Bob Hoskins and “Life is a dream; the whole universe is within it,” expressed by Ewan McGregor.

    That’s why we can see the film through both Ewan McGregor’s eyes and Ryan Gosling’s eyes. It’s not that Ryan Gosling is having a vision of Ewan McGregor just before he dies, but also that Ewan McGregor’s character existed in that particular way in that particular universe.

    That’s also why Ewan McGregor gets a flashback of his life with Naomi Watts the artists just before he asks out Naomi Watts the nurse. It’s possible he’s about to create that life, or it’s possible they’ve already lived that life together, perhaps other lives as well. Athena says to Sam about Henry: “It’s like I’ve seen him before, like I’ve known him before,” as she would if she’d shared another life with him.

    It seems to have themes of reincarnation, parallel universes, Buddhist views and even perhaps Nietzsche’s Doctrine of Eternal Return.

    Pretty deep and awesome movie. Thrilled that it works on so many different levels. It’s very tight. Reminds me of “The Matrix,” which also had meaning on many layers.

  • Mickeieio said:

    Did you guys notice the picture she drew of swan as the moose actually looked more like Ryan as a moose

  • Mickeieio said:

    Did you folks look at the drawing that Lila made of Sam while telling the story about the farmer and the moose? Sam crumpled it up but if you pause on it it is actually a drawing of Henry.

  • Hunter said:

    I got it right up until the end when Ewan saw flashes of him giving Naomi a ring and the ring falling and it was real quick flash backs, then he asks her quickly for coffee as if he foresaw something just then.

  • Brad said:

    The fact we have all landed on this page is proof of the brilliance of this film. Not everyone has to like it. But like art, it moved me. I lost my mother and grandmother when I was 3. Those few minutes of hell have been twisted and turned and it’s part reality and it’s part illusion. Im 52 yet I remember my conversations, the clothes I wore, what I had for breakfast, and the accident. Life is wonderful and dreamy! Major cudos to this movie. Absolutely brilliant!

  • Kari said:

    I am so glad to have found this site. And yes, for all those who mentioned the film’s complexity is the reason we are here are correct indeed. I watched STAY for the first time yesterday and I am still thinking and wondering what it all meant. It seems that the only moment that is real is the ending when they are all on the bridge. It is a bit thrilling to try to understand what the film was truly about.

    Ultimately, what I also walk away with is the following:

    1. I wish no one died in the car accident.
    2. Even if Ewen’s pants were short from “crouching over” I think it should become a trend because it was kind cute and men need more alternative fashion styles other than brown shoes with everything or cargo pants.
    3. Thank you for a lot of really well thought out interpretations that when piecemealed together make a conclusive explanation that I can appreciate. Thank you.

  • CC said:

    I woke up @ 4 in the morning and this movie had start so I got into it not knowing anything about it. I have read some of your comments and I noticed no one mentioned how in his dream Ewan was hanging on to a ring waiting to ask his girl and at the end of the movie Naomi is like wow nobody has asked me to marry them before??? In his dream they were together and at the end they start a new bond. Maybe Henry’s dreams can influence reality.

  • Erin said:

    I think this movie has to do with the fragility of life whether it be mental or physical. It shows that although things may not make sense at the time, everything comes together in the end. In the movie, each character helps each other in some critical way, and they are all very close even though they do not know each other. I need to watch this movie again, but I liked that he seemed to be at peace in the end. The movie references connections Henry to Sam as if they the same. In the end Henry gets to do the one thing he and Sam wanted to do – proposing and (Henry) accepting forgiveness, even though it’s really Sam’s girlfriend, which brings him peace. We also see that Sam and Lila are brought together symbolizing a fresh start. We are told through Lila to see the beauty in everything, and I think that’s a good way to look at the movie. It’s all about perspective. Also, the harder we try to control life (like Sam) the more it seems to slip out of our grasp (like the balloon), but life continues for each of them (reference to heaven and the coffee shop) and they are all able to find peace.

Leave your response!

Add your comment below, or trackback from your own site. You can also subscribe to these comments via RSS.

Be nice. Keep it clean. Stay on topic. No spam.

You can use these tags:
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

This is a Gravatar-enabled weblog. To get your own globally-recognized-avatar, please register at Gravatar.