Imagine a sad, realist remake of Leap Year. It might resemble Wiebke von Carolsfeld’s indie romance Stay, which at least isn’t predicated on plot points steeped in weirdly sexist folklore.
Stay portrays West Ireland’s moors and hamlets as stark, brooding terrain on which, by contrast, townies become townier and lovers become cuddlier. Instead of Amy Adams doing slapstick amid a herd of cows, we have Taylor Schilling of Orange Is the New Black as Abby, a much more self-contained heroine but hardly a more capable one.
Schilling’s skin is too consistently glowing to pass for a convict’s, but it’s not a problem in the role of a young Montreal woman who moves to an Irish country house with her former professor, now boyfriend, Dermot (Aidan Quinn). The two have chemistry, thanks in large part to Quinn’s swoon-worthy brogue, laid on thick for maximum endearment.
The couple’s initial stability sets up considerable stakes, making it feel like there is actually something to lose when an unexpected — but only half unwanted — pregnancy creates a rift between the two, sending Abby on a contemplative trip back to her childhood home. The film’s quiet demeanor, exacerbated by wide shots of lonely, sprawling bogs, sometimes comes off as dull rather than reflective.
Still, it does capture the maddening silence of waiting for an absent lover to make contact, even if the fates do intervene with irritating punctuality on the couple’s behalf, making other characters function as plot-pushers rather than people. The somber mood lifts like clouds after a storm, at a pace just sluggish enough that the happy ending doesn’t seem too gratuitous.