If I Stay is a 2014 movie adaptation of the best-selling novel, written by Gayle Forman. It stars Chloe Grace Moretz (Kick Ass), and Jamie Blackley as the titular characters, Mia and Adam.
The plot centres around Mia, a high-school student and aspiring musician, who, when her family are struck by tragedy, finds herself burdened with the decision of whether or not she should "stay", i.e live. The film, ladies and gentlemen, is shit. Utter and complete, soppy, poorly written and directed, shit. Let me explain why.
The poorly written script for this film, completely fell apart on screen. What were supposed to be quirky moments between Mia and best friend Kim, came across as unnatural and forced. All of the "loved up" scenes between Mia and Adam, were cringe, as the writer felt the need to make every line significant. Every sentence had to have some ulterior motive - to make us gush at how sickeningly adorable and "in love"* they are. The words were supposed to be weighted, i.e, they were supposed to make us feel, some deep emotion somewhere deep down inside us, where we empathise and connect with the characters on screen, but in reality, the only thing I felt, was the intense desire to walk out of the screening and demand my money back.
In spite of the fact that the premise of the movie, seemed to have a heading and be actively going somewhere, the film did not. So, we see her family driving along the road on a "snow day", i.e school's out, the mum pulled what we in the U.K call "a sicky" (she phoned in ill, when she was not) and they're one big happy nuclear family accompanied by an annoying voiceover from Mia. Shortly after a few flashbacks - really quite boring and unimportant, the car crashes.
After that, she does the whole "omg, what's happening, where am I, my family, omg is that my body. Shit, no-one can hear or see me. Better follow my body in the Ambulance." and once again, we as the audience are left bored to death.
All of her scenes in the hospital, her out of body experience, follow the same pattern. As she continues to try to talk to people she knows damn well cannot hear or see her because she's already tried that ABOUT A MILLION TIMES.
So the flashbacks in this movie, are basically the WHOLE movie. Without them, there is no story. Although to be fair, even with them, I'm still searching for a real plot. What we see in those flashbacks, is the relationship between Mia and Adam. A relationship that goes from Adam seeing Mia play the cello one day and asking her out, to this,
all within a matter of days. Even with the flashbacks, the movie takes no time to develop their relationship, and suffers from the same sin, that every other Young Adult novel and movie has suffered from,
The Canon Relationship
This is the relationship that exists, simply because the writer wanted it too. (i.e in fandom speak, "it's a canon ship") Often it has no real meaning, there's no real feeling, it just is. It's the relationship that has to begin in the cutest way possible. The guy has to see the girl, and be completely head over heels before he even knows her name. He must immediately ask her out, she'll gush, blush and say yes, and herein lies the tale of two young protagonists, fated to be together forever.
In any case, Mia and Adam's relationship is a Canon Relationship, and their love of music aside, it's unclear to the viewer why they're even together. And just as they're wondering this, an "I love you" pops up out of nowhere, and all the kids melt at what a "beautiful" moment it is. Which brings us to our next point.
Lovey Dovey, Smush stuff with no depth OVERLOAD.*
Shit like this,
She was in plain sight of EVERYONE in the school hallway. Stop trying to be deep.
The point, I am so desperately trying to make here, is that the "romance" is cheesy and has no depth. You don't connect with these characters, so there romance means nothing to you. Whether they get together, don't get together, you find yourself really not giving a damn, and instead wonder what this all has to do with her comatose body in the present day lying on the operating table. A black nurse (who is the equivalent of the "sassy black lady" seen so commonly in films, with her well known catchphrase "You go girl" or "You get 'em girl"), whispers a bunch of crap in her ear about it's her decision whether she lives or dies, which brings us to the final point.
So, does she have the power to wake up? Is it her decision? Or did the black lady lie? Is there a higher power involved here, or is that higher power Mia, and she just doesn't know it? Is Mia God?
I'd sincerely love to be able to give you the answers to these questions, but as the movie didn't make it clear, I have no idea. Hell, I'm not even sure the damn writers know. Do the actors know?
DOES ANYBODY KNOW?!
The movie fails to tell us whether or not it's up to Mia if she comes back. We have no idea, throughout the entirety of this movie, whether or not it's Mia's choice. If she could wake herself up and bring herself back, then what's the point of the film? She could've done so almost immediately. If she can't and that power is out of her hands, then what was the significance of the white bright sunlight that she began walking towards, stopped, and then turned around and walked back to her body when she heard music, only to find that Adam had put headphones on her body. She walked away as though she were giving up on life and then walked back as though she'd made a conscious decision to "stay" and moments later (after a bit of singing from Adam) she wakes up sort of like this,
and the movie's over.
So...what did it all mean? Did she do that? Did she not do that?
Throwing a curveball in here,
Did Adam do it? Jesus, some answers would be really quite useful right about now.
All in all, If I Stay was one of the most boring and poorly written movies I have ever seen. And coming off of a weekend where I'd just seen an advanced screening of The Maze Runner, it was extremely lacking.
I didn't expect a lot, although I am a huge fan of Chloe Grace Moretz - I believe she's an extremely talented young actress and deserves a lot more credit than she gets - I'm really not a fan of soppy romances with no substance, and that's exactly what this film is. Even Moretz couldn't save this movie.
I give 'If I Stay" a measly 4/10 stars.
If you like soppy romances, with no character development, no story arc, no plot, and really no point, then this is the film for you. Otherwise, save your money, or go see Guardians of the Galaxy again. This movie is really not worth your time or money.