Movie Review: If I Stay.
Directed By: R.J Cuttler.
Starring: Chloe Grace Moretz, Jamie Blackley, Mireille Enos and Stacy Keach.
Mia Hall is a young cellist with a bright future, she falls in love with Adam. Mia and Adam share nothing in common other than their love for the music they each play. On a day out with her family, Mia is victim to a fatal car crash that leaves to wander the halls of the hospital where no one can see or hear her while her body lays comatose, and she must make the vital decision to stay and fight for her life or to leave and be with her family.
"If I Stay" is 2014's second film to be based on a young adult novel that features a dying girl caught in a romance. While I have not read the novel for "If I Stay", I could see the narrative working far better conceptually on the page than on the screen.
After Mia is caught in a tragic car accident, she is left as a wandering spirit that lays witness to what happens to her family and her self. She wanders the hospital halls helplessly, looking for a reason for her to stay and fight for her life.
One thing I never understood during the film was its rules. Mia is technically a ghost, that we can see yet no one else can, she cannot interfere with the world around her, so she cannot pass through walls etc. This was a rule that was only made clear to me after several scenes of her banging on doors and windows, so after a while I was fine with that. There was one other rule that just passed right over my head. In the movie, a nurse whispers into Mia's comatose body, "If you live or die, its all on you, you decide" (I'm paraphrasing there) but that never made sense to me, could she easily just regain consciousness if she wanted to? I've heard that is something that is given greater detail in the source material but in the film, it was irritatingly unclear. The movie acts like its Mia's decision, but never actually tells you if it is or not and as an audience member, I was terribly confused by that. If she could so easily wake up just from a decision, than the drama is lost. Its one thing if its about her deciding to live or die but its another thing if its actually about how she wants to wake up yet her body won't allow it because of the injuries she sustained. The movie never makes it clear what the stakes are, and who is in charge of the stakes.
The movie switches back and forth between scenes featuring Mia in the hospital and flashbacks showing Mia and Adam in their relationship. For me the flashback scenes worked immensely better than the out of body scenes because we actually see things happen, things go up and down and I never felt any drama in the hospital because again, the rules were unclear. In a sense, this felt like two separate films, the relationship part and the hospital part and I much preferred the relationship segments of the film. Chloe Grace Moretz and Jamie Blackley do a fantastic job and have great chemistry, while the dialogue may not be great, their chemistry makes up for it. There are several scenes containing very hokey dialogue that in lesser hands, may have seemed awkward but Moretz and Blackley make it work to a degree.
A lot of the present day scenes do feel predictable and awkwardly put together and that's because we don't have screen time between Moretz and Blackley in these scenes. This is R.J Cuttler's first feature film and this isn't a film that has given me any hope for his future films because I didn't feel the directing was a strong point of this film, in fact on a technical level, I would say this is quite poorly put together. The only thing that did keep me interested for the majority of the film was the relationship of the main two characters.
Chloe Grace Moretz is doing a great job with her career so far, she first really broke onto the scene in Kick-Ass where she almost stole the show and then she undoubtedly stole the show in Kick-Ass 2, I thought she was the only redeeming quality of the Carrie remake and again she is one of the only good parts of "If I Stay", she makes scenes work that otherwise may not have worked. She certainly brings an energy to every role she does. She also is starring in many varied roles, for example we will next see her as a young prostitute in "The Equalizer" alongside Denzel Washington (who will not be playing a young prostitute).
This is Jamie Blackley's first big role in a Hollywood film and I actually liked his performance in this film, his character had some bad dialogue that he managed to work with and while I didn't exactly like the character very much, Blackley did a fine job.
Mireille Enos and Joshua Leonard play Mia's parents. The parents are punk rockers, or at least they used to be. I liked these characters for the time they were in the film, I just didn't like how they were presented by the screenplay. We are constantly reminded how they used to be punk rockers and in a band and it got to a point where I kept thinking "We get it! Mia is not like her parents!" and even after me thinking that, they carried on reminding us. While I liked those characters, it was mainly for the performances, not the script, because in actual fact, it is the parent's fault that the family goes through this suffering anyway, they take their children out in the car on a very snowy day when schools have been closed......they close school when it snows for a reason!
Another redeeming factor of this film was Stacy Keach who plays Mia's grandfather, he had two quite moving scenes of dialogue that were perhaps the only two parts of the film where I was close to being emotionally invested in the movie.
"If I Stay" is cheesy, emotionally manipulating and a tad too long. I understand I am not the target audience for the this movie and I didn't dislike it, so I imagine that the actual demographic (teenage girls) may enjoy it, so if you are in that demographic than it might be worth checking out. I'm going to give "If I Stay" a C+.
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