JDIFF Review – Stay

Abbey (Taylor Schilling) and Dermot (Aidan Quinn) have a warm and comfortable relationship, even though they differ on many key life decisions. When Abbey finds out she is pregnant, there is something of a parting of the ways; Abbey returns home to Canada, leaving Dermot in the west of Ireland while both partners consider their options.

Based on the novel by Aislinn Hunter, Stay tells the story of a couple who find themselves together even though they should probably be apart. Rising star Taylor Schilling [Orange is the New Black] plays Abbey as a woman who believes she knows what she wants, even as she covers up doubt and vulnerability. When she returns to Canada, she learns more about her family history and why running away from the past is an exercise in futility. Aidan Quinn plays Dermot as a gentle but stubborn man, who has also been hurt by choices he made in his past. Quinn excels at balancing the gruff and gentle aspects of Dermot, and presents the audience with a deeply hurt and conflicted character.

While the conflict and resolution between the central couple is an interesting and engaging story to watch, as soon as the two go their separate ways, and the film splits in two, something must be done to keep the story moving. This is where the film falters; introducing two disenfranchised teens into Dermot’s world and some rather questionable decisions into Abbey’s. This is when it becomes obvious that the film is based on a novel, however, there is beauty in these relationships and, even though it feels as though the story rambles at times, the rather odd archaeological subplot and peripheral characters do serve a greater purpose in the film as a whole.

Director Wiebke von Carolsfeld has created two complex characters in Dermot and Abbey; this is a typical odd couple, May/December romance, but there is something warm about the journeys the characters embark on to find redemption and love. A stronger focus on the two central characters may have led to a more energetic film, but there is beauty in watching Stay gently unfold.

In all, Stay is a warm and engaging film about an unlikely romance, which also deals with the fears parenthood invokes and the idea that people can change, but cannot be forced to. There is a little too much and too little going on – often at the same time – to make the film feel truly satisfying and some bolder choices could have made a stronger and more coherent story. That said, Stay is a quiet, heart warming story that features some great performances from Quinn and Schilling.

Rating: 3/5

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