Movie Review: “If I Stay” – Poignant

Written by Caitlin Cooper August 26, 2014

If I Stay

2014 is proving to be a big year for book adaptations hitting the big screen. A large number of them are based upon Young Adult novels which has become a big trend. “Divergent” and “The Fault in Our Stars” are just a couple popular adaptations that have drawn crowds to theaters this year, and there are many more to come before the new year. It’s no surprise, then, that one of Gayle Forman’s most popular YA books has been adapted. While it deals with life and death like many YA works tend to, “If I Stay” is a refreshingly unique, charming, and deeply moving film.

 

“If I Stay” follows Mia Hall (Chloë Grace Moretz), a young woman who’s at a time in her life where the choices she makes will affect the rest of her life. Her talent with the cello is opening doors to great colleges, and she’s navigating the path to adulthood with the guy she loves, Adam (Jamie Blackley), and her quirky but loving family. But what should have been a fun snow day spent with family turns out to be life-changing. A car crash shatters Mia’s life, and she finds her spirit separated from her comatose body. After so much loss she must decide whether or not she’ll wake up.

“Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.”

The script has wonderful source material to work from, so it’s no surprise that the screenplay is well done. “If I Stay” stumbles a bit in the beginning with some rather cheesy dialogue between Mia and Adam, but quickly finds its footing. Something truly fantastic about this film is the way in which the story is told. Half of the story is told in flashbacks which lead up to the tragic event that happens to the Hall family. Sometimes this narrative formula can be tedious, but “If I Stay” pulls it off very well. Since we get to know Mia’s friends and family more and more with each flashback, it makes what she’s gone through even more moving. We get to understand each minor and major character so well that it’s easy to become invested in them. It also means that when they’re visiting Mia and grieving, it’s that much easier to become emotional with them. There are particularly moving scenes with Mia’s Grandpa (Stacy Keach) and best friend, Kim (Liana Liberato). For a film that tackles the subject of death, this is especially important.

If I Stay

Mia and Adam have bonded largely thanks to music since both are musicians. What they admire about one another is how much emotion they imbue in their own music, even when their careers make things difficult for them (i.e. lead them to different parts of the country). In many ways, Mia and Adam are portrayed as a real couple rather than a romanticized idealistic portrayal that is common in films. They struggle with balancing their relationship with their careers, but what keeps them together is the love they have for one another. While the slogan for the film is “Live for Love” that easily applies to Mia’s music and family just as much as it applies to Adam.

“I want you to fight like hell.”

“If I Stay” should be given major kudos for its talented cast. A film with a good script can still be a flop without a good cast. Luckily, this movie has actors that realistically portray their characters. Moretz carries the film with her vulnerable, smart, and emotional Mia. Whether she’s playing the cello, interacting with her parents and little brother, or crying due to utter devastation and pain, she becomes her character on screen. Blackley genuinely makes it seem like he’s in love with Mia, and his more dramatic scenes after the accident are definitely moving. Joshua Leonard and Mireille Enos play Mia’s rock’n’roll parents, and Jakob Davies play Mia’s young brother, Teddy. It’s easy to believe that they’re a family, and my god I got attached to them then teary-eyed. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that Keach and Liberato acted beautifully, especially when they’re speaking to a comatose Mia.

If I Stay

Overall, “If I Stay” is a unique and utterly moving film which explores life and death and the choices we make. It’s faithful to Forman’s novel but more affective since it adds lovely touches. While the script does have some cheesy dialogue at first, it’s a strong film full of talented actors. If you watch “If I Stay” you’ll become as drawn into the story and its characters, and as emotional as myself and other movie-goers did this weekend.

My Rating: 9.5/10

If I Stay

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About Caitlin Cooper

Caitlin Cooper

Caitlin is an avid watcher of movies and television shows so she decided to use her passion to write about them. She has a B.A. in English Language and Literature with a Minor in Creative Writing.

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