If I Stay shares a few things in common with a Nicholas Sparks’ story. The film is based on a best-selling young adult novel by Gayle Forman and is about the adolescent love between two likeable characters. It’s also a slow-burning yet emotional film about choices and existential quandaries.

This is the feature debut for director, R.J. Cutler who is best known for his Vogue documentary, The September Issue. The screen adaption is written by Shauna Cross (Whip It) and stars Chloë Grace Moretz, who is best known as Hit-Girl from the two Kick-Ass movies. All of these aspects sound promising enough but If I Stay is rather underwhelming as a whole.

The story focuses on Mia Hall (Moretz) who is a talented and pretty young cellist. She feels like an alien in her own family as she has implausibly cool parents that invite her and her brother along for a drive on a snow day (the mum even calls in sick to do so). The family are involved in a devastating car accident and Mia is left in limbo, watching her friends and family who are worried as she remains in the intensive care unit. Mia also has to grapple with whether she has the strength to pull through and continue living.

In some ways this film is like The Lovely Bones but it also lacks the latter one’s depth. Here, Mia also looks back at her first love and relationship with a spunky rocker named Adam (Jamie Blackley). The two seem like an unlikely couple but their love did prevail for the most part. That is at least until Mia was left with the choice of whether to go to the Julliard school or not.

The dialogue in this film flits between gushing emotions (especially in the narration) and plain silliness (like “dim sum for twosome”). It makes the proceedings feel bland, contrived and heavy-handed. One redeeming factor however, is the soundtrack and the musical references which feature the likes of Iggy Pop, The Dandy Warhols, Blondie, The Smashing Pumpkins and others. Jamie Blackley should also be applauded for singing and performing all of his character’s songs, especially as this is not a common thing for most screen actors.

The Blu-ray version also boasts a series of bonus features. There are some mini featurettes where cast interviews are shown alongside edited scenes from the film. There are also audio and music commentaries as well as a gallery, music videos and deleted scenes. These will definitely prove to be a hit with fans.

If I Stay makes the most of what it is given but something does fail in the execution. This melancholy, young-adult drama may sit well with its target market but one can’t help but think that this adaptation could have been improved with some moderate changes and a swift edit. It is commendable that If I Stay tackles some serious issues and that it is not superficial, but this doesn’t stop it from occasionally veering off-track and into the realm of boring clichés.


Originally published on 13 February 2015 at the following website:

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