Just in time for St. Pat’s Day comes a movie which is partially set on the Emerald Isle. Stay stars Aidan Quinn and Taylor Schilling (best known for her role on the popular Netflix series “Orange is the New Black”). This Canadian/Irish co production is the second feature by German born director Wiebke von Carolsfeld. The film is an adaptation of a novel by Aislinn Hunter.
Aidan Quinn, who is currently featured in the TV drama “Elementary”, initially rose to fame in the 80s with films such as Reckless (1984), Desperately Seeking Susan (1985) and the TV movie “An Early Frost” (1985). In Stay, Quinn portrays Dermot, a disgraced art history professor, who has taken refuge in a rustic cabin on the rugged coast of Ireland. He lives with Abbey, his much younger girlfriend (portrayed by Schilling). As the film opens an unplanned pregnancy forces the two lovers to not only examine their relationship but each character is also forced to confront personal issues from the past, individual fears, questions regarding personal identity and expectations for the future.
Stay is a film about contrasts; young/old, rural/urban, new ways/old ways, birth/death. The relationship between Dermot and Abbey clearly illustrates this dichotomy. The age gap between these two central characters serves to provide a glimpse into the more complex differences between the way each character sees life and the world around them.
The majority of the Stay takes place in a small village on the west coast of Ireland but the film also includes a glimpse of urban life in Montreal when Abbey returns to her hometown. Once again von Carolsfeld presents viewers with a study in contrasts: the isolation, natural beauty, and drabness of Ireland with the fast paced modern urban landscape of Montreal.
Perhaps the biggest flaw in Stay is the fact that as viewers we are hit over the head again and again by the central theme of contrast. This is especially evident during a scene in which Deirdre, a young woman who goes into labor while lying on a bed next to the body of her dead mother which has been placed for viewing during her wake. Although the overall tone of the film can best be described as subtle this particular scene seems overly contrived and didactic. It takes place soon after Dermot learns about his girlfriend’s pregnancy and must confront the notion of becoming a father. This theme is further exemplified when Dermot befriends Sean, a local boy from the village. Their interaction involves the older man providing some fatherly counsel to the teen.
Stay has a lot going for it, but unfortunately this character driven film is bogged down (pardon the pun-if you’ve seen the film you’ll understand) by its central themes such as the notion of home and what that means. Is it a person, a place, or something more complex? Stay also deals with how the past influences the present and asks questions such as if we’re doomed to repeat the same mistakes time and time again. This theme is illustrated when Abbey learns that her mother deserted her and her father because she didn’t like being a parent. Is Abbey destined to repeat her mother’s decisions or will she break the pattern and follow her own path?
Stay is a quiet film that deals with adult issues. Aidan Quinn and Taylor Schilling deliver excellent performances. Unfortunately the film ultimately proves to be unsatisfying. The plot includes a number of distracting red herrings, such as Deidre’s pregnancy and Sean’s family life, which only serve to muddle up the main story-line.
Stay opens in theatres March 14.