STAY ONLINE is a new movie from Ukraine that plays out entirely via the screen like in SEARCHING and FRIEND REQUEST. As it takes place during the current war, it has a relevance that is heartbreaking. Read our full Stay Online movie review here!

STAY ONLINE is an intense and heartbreaking new movie. It’s a Ukrainian production made in Ukraine during the war. And yes, the story is also very much about the Russian attack on the sovereign nation of Ukraine, and how it has affected everyone.

The fact that this is a feature film debut is as impressive as the backdrop is scary. We’re screening this movie as part of our Fantasia 2023 coverage, where it’s having its world premiere, and I strongly recommend watching it whenever you can. If nothing else, to give you a very clear idea of what it’s like to be in Ukraine during this war.

A similar style of movie from Syria could also be very interesting and just as relevant.

Continue reading our Stay Online movie review below. The film is screening at Fantasia 2023.

Trying to save just one life

In Stay Online, we follow Katya (Liza Zaitseva) from Kyiv who is fighting against the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Her role in this is helping prepare laptops for soldiers, but she also has a few personal vendetta operations going on. It’s a very interesting detail that makes it feel very real and personal.

While using one of the laptops donated to the resistance, Katya starts talking with the son of the original owner. He is a boy who is obsessed with superheroes and wants to be Spider-Man himself. He quickly sees Katya as a superhero and asks for her help in finding his lost parents.

Desperate to make a positive change in this sweet boy’s life, she drops her vendetta-missions and starts working on finding his parents. Trying to help this one life, results in her trying to save another life, which in turn means risking many other lives.

It does become rather brutal and pulls no punches in showing the horrors of war.

Consider yourself warned!

Stay Online – Review | War Movie | Fantasia

Up close and in your face

Letting everything happen on the screen (the so-called screenlife format) may in part be out of necessity, but it is also a brilliant way of keeping the story personal and in your face. You can relate to being in your home and unable to help someone far away. All while also trying to think outside the box and still try to help.

You probably know the screenlife format from movies such as Searching and Friend Request along with Host. That last one was very much the result of necessity as it was made during lockdown.


Be sure to check out the Searching sequel titled Missing (2023) which we reviewed here >

In Stay Online, the use of this concept means you’re trapped along with the main character. Everything happens in her apartment, where she switches between hiding in the bathroom whenever the air raid alarm sound, and sitting in her kitchen. It’s scary yet also clearly something this Ukrainian woman has already grown accustomed to.

Watch Stay Online as it screens at Fantasia 2023

Stay Online is the feature-film debut of Ukrainian filmmaker Eva Strelnikova. She has crafted a movie that is both scary, fascinating, and utterly heartbreaking. Showing war in all its horror is exactly the message the world needs. Even when it’s shown from the (relative) safety of one woman’s apartment.

Admittedly, there were several times where Katya irritated me like hell. Her desire to help this one boy at the expense of everyone and everything else just made me angry. However, I also fully recognize that living in a world where you have no control, the need to fight for something can quickly dominate your life.

This is the first Ukrainian feature film shot since the ongoing Russian invasion began. The movie has very accurately been called “a necessary piece of protest art that commands and deserves your attention” which is spot-on.

This is a movie that shows the war-torn streets of Ukraine along with other brutal real-life images. By doing this, Stay Online is giving its audience a true look (or glimpse, really) into life during wartime in the present day and age. You should definitely watch this when you get the chance.

Stay Online is having its world premiere at Fantasia 2023.


Director: Eva Strelnikova
Writers: Anton Skrypets Skrypets, Eva Strelnikova
Cast: Hordii Dziubynskyi, Roman Liakh, Oleksandr Rudynskyi, Yelyzaveta Zaitseva, Olesia Zhurakivska


During the war, a small boy calls the laptop of his missing dad, but it happens to be at a volunteer girl’s. The boy asks her to find his parents. But to save the boy’s family, she has to risk the lives of her loved ones.

I write reviews and recaps on Heaven of Horror. And yes, it does happen that I find myself screaming, when watching a good horror movie. I love psychological horror, survival horror and kick-ass women. Also, I have a huge soft spot for a good horror-comedy. Oh yeah, and I absolutely HATE when animals are harmed in movies, so I will immediately think less of any movie, where animals are harmed for entertainment (even if the animals are just really good actors). Fortunately, horror doesn't use this nearly as much as comedy. And people assume horror lovers are the messed up ones. Go figure!
Karina "ScreamQueen" Adelgaard
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