I have to admit that romantic films are not exactly my cup of tea. Occasionally though, a film arises that manages to be easy to watch and entertaining enough to prove that the category can also have some merit. Let us see if “Stay” belongs to this category.
Ryuu works hard at a little fish shop in Tokyo, trying to get his life back on track after a career in business ended in shambles due to drug addiction. Getting over his past, however, does not prove so easy and Ryuu is eventually fired due to customer’s complaints and on the same day stumbles upon his ex-dealer and his ex-girlfriend, ending up with a free “sample” in his pocket. The same night, he decides to go to an underground night club he used to frequent, where he ends up having sex in the bathroom with Hope, a girl he had never met before. The two split up before they are even introduced to each other, but through a series of romantic-film only coincidences, end up sleeping in Ryuu’s apartment. Eventually, they decide to spend the day together, and an unlikely bond is formed.
Darryl Wharton directs a delightful movie that benefits the most by the chill-out (with some action elements that add some entertainment to the whole narrative) atmosphere, the very interesting dialogues and the obvious charisma of the two protagonists. The build-up of the story, although somewhat unrealistic, manages to keep interest for the whole of the 99 minutes of the duration, as we watch two reluctant individuals opening up to each other, transforming a purely sexual relationship to something much deeper. At the same time, the permeating melancholia also suits the narrative quite nicely, as both life stories become dramatic, while the ending cements this aspect in heart-breaking but also very fulfilling fashion. On the other hand, Wharton has also included some elements of subtle humor, with the visit to Ryuu’s grandma being the main source of this aspect.
The rather polished production also suits the narrative, with Jeremy Goldberg’s cinematography highlighting generally unknown sides of Tokyo in realistic but also beautiful fashion, while his framing highlights the obvious gorgeousness of the two protagonists perfectly. Yukako Shimada’s editing allows the story to unfold in a relatively slow, almost dreamy pace that again suits the aesthetics of the movie quite nicely.
The movie focuses much on the performances (and appearances) of the two protagonists and I can easily say the both Shogen and Ana Tanaka deliver quite convincingly, with their chemistry being one of the best assets of the film. Shogen, who is the most experienced of the two, has a bigger part and also delivers in his stand-alone scenes, but is the ones that both appear on screen that truly make the difference here.
“Stay” is a simple film based on an even simpler love story, but Darryl Wharton seems to have done everything correctly, thus resulting in a delightful and quite easy to watch and enjoy film.