Stay is a film for restless hearts, those with the need to travel, and who enjoy the feeling of a romance played out in small gestures. In short, Stay is a charming film that does not demand to be seen, as much as felt and experienced.
Based on the book by Aislinn Hunter, but only slightly, at its heart, Stay is a story between two damaged souls. Abbey, played wonderfully by Taylor Schilling with passionate expressions, finds herself stuck between two worlds, those of her older lover Dermot in Galway, Ireland, and that of her troubled father back home in Montreal. The scenery in both locations is gorgeous, the greenery in Ireland so green, and even the bog played out in delicious colours. Montreal has never looked so vibrant, and Schilling seems a natural fit in both places, even though this Bostonian had never before been to either Ireland or Montreal before shooting the film. Schilling could, however, easily inhabit Abbey’s state of being at the crux of an important decision, ultimately one that is left open as to its resolution. As Schilling says, “I was really attracted to the idea of Abbey being at a crossroads in her life, of there being a conflict that she couldn’t go back to her old way of doing things, that in order to move forward, things had to change”, adding, “I’m curious about these moments in people’s lives”.
A major reason as to why Stay is so successful in making the viewer feel involved in the story is the dedication of Wiebke von Carolsfeld, a first-time screenwriter, and winner of best first Canadian film for her previous feature, and, as she stresses, a female filmmaker. Of the personal transformation in Stay, von Carolsfeld says that “I liked the idea of having a woman, a displaced woman, an immigrant woman. I am an immigrant myself. I came from a young adult from Germany to Canada. Identifying major themes that attracted her to the project, von Carolsfeld thoughtfully reflects: “Obviously, I identify with that journey, and her journey to find a home…how do you deal with with your past, and how do you move into your future?” Stay is about the muck of our present lives, trapped in this conflict between past and future.
Set to a haunting score, especially a beautiful song by The Great Lake Swimmers, Stay shows Abbey’s displacement even within her hometown of Montreal. She returns finding friends, her father, and even the smallest of elements have not stayed, but shifted in her absence.
Schilling offers a telling interpretation of the title of the film and its representation in this sometimes troubling, and yet hopeful story: “For a lot of these characters, there are a lot of things that they would like to stay as they are, and even physically planted to just stay…They’re confronted again and again…with the truth that that’s not going to be the case…everything is in flux”.