So much depends on our expectations as we embark upon the viewing experience. Who amongst us has not been totally disappointed after seeing a massively hyped movie. And so it goes with If I Stay. This is a film adaptation of a YA (young Adult) novel by Gayle Forman. As such, it appeals greatly to a narrow audience of mostly preteen and teen females. So if you’re expecting a highly nuanced adult drama here, you will probably be among the disappointed.
I am far from those teen years, however, and I truly enjoyed this movie. The biggest reason is probably the very beautiful and talented Chloe Grace Moretz. She has a long filmography for a 17-year old, and that is exactly the age she portrays in If I Stay. So no 27-year-olds playing high schoolers, ala the TV show Glee. She is able to very legitimately evoke those teen emotions. And that brings us to the main critic complaint: too melodramatic, sappy, a “teen weeper”, etc. You can see these reviews on Rotten Tomatoes. But these haters don’t get that this is the type of emotional climate that many teens want to bask in. The hormonal rush brought on by the gateway into adulthood introduces deeper feelings and concerns that If I Stay addresses.
So Chloe is beautiful and joins the Fanning sisters, Elle and Dakota, Hailee Steinfeld, and Shailene Woodley, as actors that bring to life their generation. Time for storyline. Chloe has been in her first real relationship with the rock musician Adam, played by Jamie Blackley (never heard of him, but maybe you have). Chloe is Mia, a cellist since childhood, and plays a kind of a reserved and wholesome type. (So different from her ultra “sophisticate” middle schooler role in Diary of a Wimpy Kid.) Mia and her brother are children of Mireille Enos (great role for Enos, who thrilled many of us as Sarah Linden in the hit series The Killing—here instead of the depressive loner she plays in The Killing, she is the former hippie/groupie for her husband’s (Joshua Leonard) punk rock band.) Okay, so the family unit is going for a little outing on a snow day, and there is a terrible accident. The remainder of the film is devoted to Mia’s decision of whether to awake from her coma and live a life crushed from what it was, or to allow herself to go.
The convention used is an out-of-body experience, where she is observing herself, and of course continually surprised that nobody seems to see or hear her. I wasn’t a big fan of the two Mia’s, but it worked well to tell the backstory in chunks.
I did prefer The Fault in Our Stars for YA adaptations, but If I Stay has much to offer, including the actors, the story of Mia and Adam’s relationship, and the process of deciding. Don’t expect high art, and settle in for a good movie. – [DVD] [Blu-Ray]
Release Date: 11/18/14