John Hanlon Reviews

Film Reviews

If I Stay poster

If I Stay

Genre: Drama

Director: R.J. Cutler

Cast: Chloë Grace Moretz, Mireille Enos, Jamie Blackley, Joshua Leonard, Liana Liberato, Aisha Hinds, Stacy Keach

MPAA-Rating: PG-13

Release Date: August 22nd, 2014

Oftentimes when characters in television shows are in a coma, order
the characters have an out-of-body experience and they get to see their loved ones peering down at them and hoping for the best. It’s a gimmick that can often feel preposterous and annoying.

If I Stay, the new drama starring Chloë Grace Moretz, takes that silly gimmick and expands it for one hundred and six minutes.

Moretz plays Mia Hall, a brilliant young cello player who is waiting to hear about her possible acceptance at the Julliard School, the famous musical institution that only accepts the best performers. Mia is also a high school student in love. Ever since she was asked out by Adam (Jamie Blackley), a rock band singer a few years older than her, she’s been overcome with affection for him.

“When you meet someone and they already are the person they want to be. That was Adam,” she notes in a voiceover. From a shy high school student to one half of the perfect couple, Mia mysteriously transforms overnight into a confident and more complex young woman. During a trip with her parents and her younger brother though, tragedy strikes and Mia— now comatose— has to decide whether or not to live or die after learning of the fates of her family members.

It’s a decision that takes the majority of the film to make. In the meantime, viewers will be treated to a series of flashbacks detailing Mia’s budding relationship with Adam. “Why do I get the feeling you’re about to mess up my entire life,” she asks during an early encounter with him, a sentiment that has little bearing on reality. It’s true that the couple have their ups and downs but each of their fights ends in a simple oftentimes cutesy resolution where they both say the right things to each other.

Throughout the entire feature, Mia’s budding romance plays out with an unnecessary level of melodrama and teen angst. When she transforms into Adam’s girlfriend, she loses some of the unique attributes that kept her grounded beforehand. She’s still a musician of course but the focus on her music is pushed aside as she spends more time with him.

It’s easy to recognize how the film is going to end but the entire ordeal is dragged out much longer than necessary. The outstanding performance here is from Stacy Keach, who plays Mia’s grandfather. Here is a character that truly shows a range of emotions both in the hospital rooms and in the flashbacks. He’s faced with a brutal tragedy when some members of Mia’s family die and he realizes that even if Mia wakes up, her life is never going to return to normal and her existence will always be partly defined by a tragic car accident.

If I Stay is obviously attempting to appeal to the same young adult audience that made The Fault in Our Stars a hit earlier this year but it lacks the honesty and forthrightness of that drama. Adapted from the novel by Gayle Forman, this movie is nothing more than a melodramatic and sad mess that tries to be more than the gimmick that holds it together. It’s not and it shows.

Review by: John Hanlon