Sunday, 16 March 2014

STAY - Review By Greg Klymkiw - No matter how much one tries to gussy it up, twee is as twee is and always will be. Twee, that is.

Stay (2014) Dir. Wiebke von Carolsfeld
Starring: Aidan Quinn, Taylor Schilling, Michael Ironside

Review By Greg Klymkiw

I always liked Aidan Quinn, but he really hasn't had a decent role since Barry Levinson's Avalon almost one quarter of a century ago. As such, I was kind of looking forward to seeing him in this movie - one I knew little about, save for the fact that he was in it and had a starring role opposite Taylor Schilling (an actress of dubious gifts, but not without some screen presence displayed in a clutch of bad movies like The Lucky One, Argo and (Ugh!) Atlas Shrugged). Alas, my heart sank a tiny bit when a head credit popped up which read: "With the financial participation of Telefilm Canada". I thought, oh, perhaps this won't be a real movie after all, but a Canadian movie pretending to be a foreign film with pig-in-a-poke "names" as window dressing to sucker audiences in to see it. Still, I was willing to give this a shot. Unfortunately, the movie's staggeringly stereotypical Canadian preciousness announced itself right at the outset as Quinn kicks a tin can along the ground as he walks along a lovely big-sky aquatic vista.

Great way to open a movie - kicking a can, looking forlorn against a topographical backdrop that might as well have been some Maritime Canadian locale. Luckily, it's not Canada, but Ireland. I recall thinking, "Well, at least I won't have to listen to Maritime fiddle music or Newfie rugby songs."

Well, maybe luck isn't with me. The soundtrack began to swell with some sickeningly twee folk song with the twittering voice of an Irish lass as Quinn enters his home, prepares a lovely tray of breakfast-in-bed and saunters gently into the boudoir where a gorgeous, young Taylor Schilling sleeps ever-so soundly.


The movie then veered into territory I fully expected it to (based upon the initial letdown of the Telefilm Canada credit) and it does so with all the typical, uh, flair of a Canadian movie that values studied, ambrosial flatness.

Based upon a novel I haven't read by Aislin Hunter, I think perhaps I can't heap all my disdain for this flaccid movie and its ho-hum narrative upon screenwriter-director Wiebke von Carolsfeld since she did a perfectly decent job with Daniel MacIvor's Marion Bridge. But damn! This is one rink-dink sojourn into Dullsville that not even the presence of Aidan Quinn can quite save.

Quinn plays a semi-retired Archeology professor who lives in this relatively obscure small Irish community with his best gal, the supple late-20-something Schilling whose cradle he robbed during a trip to nearby Galway. It turns out the lassie is preggers with Aidan's seed and due to a deep, dark secret (revealed later on), he's not too keen on having kids. Schilling, conveniently from Montreal (allowing for a co-production twixt Canada and Ireland for this movie), decides to travel back to La Belle Province to engage in some soul searching with her Dad (Michael Ironside, looking very uncomfortable without automatic weaponry in his arms). Quinn does his fair share of soul searching too. We basically bounce back and forth between the Emerald Isle and French Canada's very own City of Lights as both characters spend a lot of time thinking about their relationship as well as the notion of having a child.

The lion's share of this whole-lotta-ruminating-going-on takes place in the Land o' Leprechauns where we get treated to subplots involving a young lad who is fatherless, a young preggers Momma who is motherless and Quinn learning a few lessons from both of them. Schilling learns a few lessons from friends and relatives in Montreal and even more sickeningly, we discover that her own Momma buggered off long ago because she didn't want a child. Wow! So many people abandoned by their Mamas and Papas. It's no wonder all these conveniently converging plot lines require a fair bit of mulling over.

If any of this had been treated with some good old fashioned passion and panache, it might have been palatable - maybe even, uh, good - but of course, since the movie is ultimately Canadian and not directed with any of the oomph Canadians can deliver (Cronenberg, Maddin, Veninger, the Soska Sisters, etc.), we're treated to little more than a limp, precious meander that doesn't even have the sort of TV-movie watchability that many Canadian dramas are infused with. In spite of some potential for roiling melodrama, all we get is a movie that's not edgy enough to be art, nor narratively competent enough to be entertaining.

Like many Canadian films (and, in fact, resembling much of the country's ethos), Stay sits rigidly on a fence post - the tip of it, and beyond, lodged firmly in that place where the sun don't shine.

"Stay" is distributed by Alliance VivaFilm in Montreal and is enjoying a limited run in that otherwise magical city and the not-so-magical city of Toronto at the TIFF Bell Lightbox.