Fantasia Reviews

[Fantasia 2023] Stay Online Review

“Stay Online” arrives at a pivotal moment for the found footage and POV filmmaking styles, challenging the conventions set by predecessors like ‘Megan is Missing,’ ‘Unfriended 1&2,’ ‘Missing,’ and ‘Searching.’ Director Eva Strelnikova ventures into uncharted territory, asking a poignant question: “How can we craft an impactful film that portrays the horrors of war through the eyes of both soldiers and civilians?”

Stay Online follows a young woman (Liza Zaitseva) volunteering in Kyiv after she receives one of the thousands of laptops donated by ordinary Ukrainians to support the war effort. After installing a sensitive military application, the woman receives a mysterious video call from a superhero-obsessed young boy.


Strelnikova, along with co-writer Anton Skrypets, delivers a harrowing and exhilarating cinematic experience that promises to redefine the sub-genre of found footage and POV movies. The film introduces us to a determined protagonist, portrayed by the future star Elizaveta Zaitseva, whose breathtaking performance unfolds entirely in front of a laptop throughout the runtime.

Set against the backdrop of the Russian and Ukraine war, “Stay Online” instills a sense of urgency as our main character endeavors to unlock a laptop she has received. The opening sequence piques curiosity about the significance of the computer and the reasons behind its importance. When the protagonist finally cracks the code, revealing videos and secret messages from the laptop’s previous owner, the gravity of the situation becomes apparent.

As the audience delves into these videos and pictures, a grim revelation surfaces – the previous owner may have been killed while attempting to evacuate the country during the war. The tension escalates when the son of the deceased calls the computer, setting the stage for a gripping narrative. The protagonist, in a race against time, contacts her brother and uncle, both soldiers in the war, seeking their help to uncover the fate of the deceased parents. This introduces us to “The Grey Zone,” a place soldiers on both sides are reluctant to explore.

The film navigates through a frantic atmosphere, skillfully created by the grit and gloom surrounding the characters within the country. The narrative unfolds as a terrifying and exciting journey, as the audience roots for the soldiers to find the son’s parents while dreading the potential worst outcome for everyone involved.

The performances of the leads contribute significantly to the film’s impact, capturing the frantic essence of the atmosphere created by the surrounding circumstances. Against the backdrop of the war, “Stay Online” weaves a tale of shock and suspense, urging audiences to confront the harsh realities of conflict. While “Oppenheimer” graces theaters, “Stay Online” stands as a parallel shocker, captivating and stunning audiences brave enough to withstand its intensity.

In conclusion, “Stay Online” emerges as a daring entry in the found footage and POV sub-genre, tackling the horrors of war with a fresh perspective. Eva Strelnikova’s direction, Anton Skrypets’ writing, and Elizaveta Zaitseva’s stellar performance elevate the film to a must-watch status. As it shocks and stuns, “Stay Online” proves to be a bold and thought-provoking cinematic experience that challenges the boundaries of its genre. It redefines what found footage can be and is a breath of fresh air for the genre that much needed in the times we live in. It’s surreal to see something like “Stay Online” be such a knock out of a film.

Overall Grade: 5/5 Stars.

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