Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

Stay: a familiar story of separation and reconciliation

2.5 out of 4 stars

Written by
Wiebke von Carlsfeld
Directed by
Wiebke von Carlsfeld
Starring
Taylor Schilling and Aidan Quinn
Classification
14A
Country
USA
Language
English

Novelistic subtleties can sometimes get lost in the broad-brush translation to filmmaking. In Stay, for example, Taylor Schilling, star of the Netflix series Orange is the New Black, plays a young Canadian woman named Abby who's living with a retired archeology professor, Dermot (Aidan Quinn), in a spring-autumn romance that comes with side helpings of local colour and melodramatic backstory.

Adapted from a 2002 novel by Canadian writer Aislinn Hunter, this is the second film directed by Wiebke von Carlsfeld – she also made Daniel MacIvor's Marion Bridge into a film with Molly Parker and Ellen Page. Stay retains the book's admirable generosity and respect for its slightly unorthodox characters, but on film, the low-energy pacing and emotional understatement minimize the urgency of their problems.

Early on, after the exploration of the couple's physical contrasts – Schilling, model thin and fine-featured; Quinn, grizzled and twinkly – it's clear enough from their warm interactions that they're made for each other, whatever a few clucking local busybodies might say.

Story continues below advertisement

Though Abby is restless with small-town Irish life, things don't get complicated until she learns she is pregnant: Dermot says he does not want a child, and she knows the reasons why. Abby decides it's time to fly back home to Montreal to visit her hard-drinking wreck of a father (Michael Ironside) and possibly have an abortion. Her mother, according to her dad, took off to Central America for fun in the sun when Abby was just a toddler. Abby worries she has some of the same escapist tendencies, wants to know more about her mother, and gets help from the convenient discovery of a diary that reveals some family secrets.

In parallel scenes, Dermot works out his fatherhood issues by befriending an engaging teenaged dropout, Sean (Barry Keoghan, a bright spark here), who persuades the professor to hire him to build a fence. During the course of their conversations, Dermot tells the boy about his mistake with a student lover years before.

In a somewhat heavy-handed subplot about the past's refusal to stay buried, Dermot discovers human remains in a neighbour's field, causing the property's future use to be changed from tourist development to archaeological dig.

One idea that could have been more richly developed is the sense of Ireland as a society caught between tradition and modernity, set against the generational cycles of birth and death. One striking scene sees a young woman, who has returned home to have her out-of-wedlock baby, suddenly collapsing at a wake, lying down on a bed next to a corpse as her contractions begin.

Too often, though, the darker, more serious moments in Stay are only temporary distractions from the main event – a familiar tale of romantic separation and reconciliation.

Report an error Licensing Options
About the Author
Film critic

Liam Lacey is a film critic for The Globe and Mail. More

Comments

The Globe invites you to share your views. Please stay on topic and be respectful to everyone. For more information on our commenting policies and how our community-based moderation works, please read our Community Guidelines and our Terms and Conditions.

We’ve made some technical updates to our commenting software. If you are experiencing any issues posting comments, simply log out and log back in.

Discussion loading… ✨