Hollywood keeps churning out movies adapted from books adored by Young Adult readers.
If I Stay
Hollywood keeps churning out movies adapted from books adored by Young Adult readers. If I Stay is the latest of these and one that keeps the motivation moving in the right direction. Though certainly not a film for every age group or demographic, there are elements in this one that most will be able to relate to. Hopefully not to the lengths that the main character has to go through but possibly in the other minor decisions faced in the film. If nothing else, this one at least blends drama and a touch of the supernatural in a way that will make you appreciate your family and hung them a little tighter.
Mia Hall (Chloë Grace Moretz) is a young woman preparing to graduate High School. She is preoccupied with auditioning to get into Julliard as a Cellist while trying not to be consumed with Adam (Jamie Blackley), her new boyfriend. She has an amazing family despite her little brother (Jakob Davies) and punk music loving parents (Joshua Leonard/Mireille Enos) being a bit over the top. But when a tragic accident changes everything Mia finds she is stuck between this life and the hereafter. During an out of body experience she faces her toughest decision yet; move on or stay and live a life far different and painful then she could ever have imagined.
This is a tragic tale that stays manageable due to the acting of Moretz and the balance of flashback storytelling. Writer Gayle Forman (novel) is able to keep the mood light as she shows Mia interacting with her family, going on dates, and trying to fit her classical soul into the rock and roll world of Adam. This tone not only breaks the tension but also draws you into the treasurable life this young woman has. It makes the decision to stay harder for her and at times more emotional to watch. These are all good people who have been dealt a nasty blow. As a viewer you sort of want them to all wake up and someone say, “just kidding”.
Moretz proves here that what we saw from her in Carrie and the Kick-Ass flicks was no fluke. She has to, and does, carry this film. There are a wide range of emotions that Mia goes through and Chloë nails each one. You believe her whether she is fluidly playing the Cello, crying over Adam’s lack of understanding, or opening up to her mom about how hard it all is. Everyone else takes a backseat to Moretz and this allows her to set the tone for each scene. They were smart to do it this way. The other actors, though in no way inadequate, at times can seem a little out of place or to be forcing a line. In particular Enos who is a marvelous actress (see THE Killing if you doubt that) but in this role of free spirited Kat she often comes across playing dress up. As if she isn’t sure how to embrace the puck rock heritage her character embodies.
Something else that was solid in this film is the musicianship. Music is a common thread among the characters and each scene that incorporates a performance looks authentic. When Adam plays the guitar Blackley is using correct fingering and chords. The references to early punk music is thought out and used accurately. It is most flawless when Mia plays the Cello. The filmmakers did a superb job of seamlessly using the emotions of Moretz with the cello skills of others. We all know that Chloë could not perfect her playing in the time it took to make this film. But there are moments you will second guess yourself and insist she has been playing her whole life.
If I Stay is rated PG-13 for thematic elements and some sexual material. This is a safe rating though granted some parents may not like how far Mia and Adam take their relationship. Also pre-teen viewers may be a bit traumatized by the thought of family tragedy as depicted here. The film is well written and as mentioned overtly, perfected by Moretz. It is perfect for the High School young adult female crowd and that is who will truly appreciate it. I give it 3.75 out of 5 for the genre and selected audience. It is a decent choice for a mom-daughter, outing just bring a tissue or two and make sure you dialogue about it afterwards.