Director: R.J. Cutler
Cast: Chloe Grace Moretz, Mireille Enos, Stacy Keach and Liana Liberato
Running Time: 106 minutes
Release Date: August 29th
Book adaptations, dying teenagers and weepy romances seem to be big on the cinema hit list this summer. Last month there was The Fault in Our Stars and now we have If I Stay. Adolescent girls are clearly the primary market for this genre and If I Stay bears all the hallmarks of what would appeal to them. First person adolescent female narrative? Check. Beautiful, talented and intelligent teenage girl? Check. Hunky man candy who she can’t believe would be into her, despite being beautiful, talented and intelligent? Check. So far, so Twilight. But this film does offer more than the usual teenage romance fodder and is an altogether more palatable affair.
The setting is Portland, Oregon, a city still firmly rooted in the 90s. Teenagers are heavily into rock music and bands, as if EDM had never breached the city limits. Mia Hall (Chloe Grace Moretz) is a talented cellist with two old rockers-turned-mainstream parents. Besides sometimes feeling like “an alien” as a classic musician in her punk-loving family and some issues with her boyfriend, life seems pretty good for Mia. Cue horrible life-changing car crash that leaves her in a coma on the brink of death and debating the eternal punk question – Should I stay or should I go? Her story is then the told retrospectively as we learn about her life before the crash, mainly her relationship with dashing band front-man Adam (Jamie Blackley).
Moretz in the role of Mia is one of the elements that elevate this story from a mushy melodrama. Her career seems to have gone in reverse. She first blasted on to the screen as an overly mature pint-sized superhero in Kick-Ass and has now graduated backwards into teen drama. However, Moretz has an inner light that you won’t find behind the cold, dead eyes of Kristen Stewart. There is a convincing on-screen chemistry between Moretz and Blackley, and their burgeoning relationship is sweet and hopeful. If nothing else, it will transfer you back to a time when having a different taste in music from someone seemed like a big deal. Her mother is played by the charming Mireille Enos, who refuses to be type cast as the stony detective in The Killing. Scenes depicting their easy and frank mother-daughter relationship are some of the most compelling in the film. What is most jarring is the cuts to the present, as Moretz wanders the hospital, eavesdropping on loved one’s and doctor’s conservation. Is she a ghost, is it her soul? Can she walk through things? (No) Can she open doors? (Sometimes). It all sits uneasily with the rest of the film, which could have worked as a sweet coming of age story in itself.
It’s easy to make fun of these types of films. But being a teenager, being really into music, feeling that first rush of love is something most people can relate to if they dig deep enough. If you’re in a vaguely sentimental mood want to just feel some emotions, then If I Stay is the Sunday night movie to watch. Preferably with your younger niece or sister though, so you don’t feel too weird.