"If I Stay" Film Review
By: Nathaniel Simpson
At the time of this film's release in 2014, star Chloë Grace Moretz was only 17-years-old and already established herself as a rising star. She has starred in films like "Kick-Ass", "Hugo", and Kimberly Peirce's adaptation of the hit Stephen King horror novel, "Carrie". Yet, and at no fault of her own, Moretz either stars in really good movies or some terrible films. This film, titled "If I Stay", sort of falls in the middle of those two categories, not necessarily being very good but nowhere near being bad. I think she does a great job performing what she is given, but the story and some of the acting performances present here prevent it from reaching that great status.
The movie focuses on Mia (Moretz), who is a cello prodigy with aspirations of attending Juilliard to further her music career. She has a great best friend named Kim (Liana Liberato) and is dating an up-and-coming singer named Adam (Jamie Blackley). On top of it all, she has a great relationship with her mom (Mireille Enos) and dad (Joshua Leonard), and even gets along with her baby brother Teddy (Jakob Davies). However, in the blink of an eye, that all changes when she gets into a near-fatal car accident.
Mia is now fighting for her life, but is able to have an out-of-body experience to know everything that is going around her. She can see her family fighting for their lives, her grandparents, Kim, and Adam waiting for her in the waiting room, and everything going on in the hospital. Using a series of intercut flashback sequences, the film explores Mia's ultimate choice of whether she should stay on Earth or go the afterlife, with huge pros and cons for both options.
As a film, it does everything it needs to fully get its story across. The entire plot is expanded from when Mia was a little girl to modern day, where she is laying on her death bed. Because of that, it is able to show all of these character's progression throughout the years and how they have got to the place they got to when we find them all at the hospital. In that terms, it does its job very well.
But here's the thing: her car accident shouldn't have even happened in the film. I understand that this is based off a popular weepy YA novel, but it really doesn't need to happen. I think this film could have easily played itself as a romantic drama, but it wants to add in this aspect to garner tears from the audience. Not only do I not like this aspect of the film, but I think it is a cheap shot to force the viewers to feel something.
Consider the storyline of Mia and Adam's relationship. They are both very lovable characters, but at the end of the day, one of them is extremely selfish and it's not until Mia is in a car crash for that character to realize that. As the film concludes, they want the viewer to feel at peace and happy with how it ended, despite it being a horrible and cheap ending to tie up loose ends. Thinking long term in this film's world, the ending will never last and will ruin everything that led up to this point. Speaking of the ending, I think this ending really shows a horrible way it could end, and leaves the viewer with a bad taste in their mouth.
At the same time, it wants us to feel something for some of the characters, and to feel a raw emotion when something happens to one of them. However, it fluctuates its characters personalities and goals that the viewer starts to get whiplashed by all of these various personalities and roles in the film. For example, the parents start off as cool parents with a pretty awesome dynamic. However, as the movie progresses and Mia grows up, they become annoying and suffocating after a while. Yet, they don't want you to feel that about the characters because they add in an element for the audience to feel won over by an action they did to Mia, such as buying her a cello when she is young. It's almost gaslighting the viewer in a way, making them feel confused on how to feel throughout the film.
In terms of acting performances, they're sort of forgettable and not all that. Sure, the actors showed up and did what they were told, but the performances are lifeless, acting like puppets on strings. There's no heart or soul in some of these roles, and it definitely shows. In terms of Moretz's performance, I think she is perhaps the only character that I felt drawn towards and I do think she did a pretty good job here playing this character.
This teen movie is definitely interesting, and I don't necessary like how it tries to play with the viewers emotions. I think it cheapens a lot of the elements that happen throughout, and doesn't really hit that emotional note it needed to to succeed. It's unfortunate as this movie could have had a lot of potential, but it is ruined by a badly written story and some annoying performances.