UK Release Date: 29th August 2014
Runtime: 107 minutes
Director: RJ Cutler
Writer: Shauna Cross
Starring: Chloe Grace Moretz, Jamie Blackley, Mireille Enos, Joshua Leonard, Stacy Keach
Synopsis: When she is involved in a horrific car accident, a young girl finds herself given the unexpected choice of whether to live or die.
Chloe Grace Moretz, best known as foul-mouthed heroine Hit Girl in the Kick-Ass franchise, is one of the world’s brightest young acting talents. At the age of just 17, she has already had a varied, interesting career and she seems a dead cert for awards glory in the future. Teen drama If I Stay yields one of her most serious, challenging roles to date.
Mia (Moretz) is a talented young cellist, embroiled in a turbulent relationship with rock frontman Adam (Jamie Blackley). One day, snow closes her school, leading her parents (Mireille Enos and Joshua Leonard) to plan a day out. Tragedy strikes, though, when the family are involved in a car accident that leaves Mia unconscious in hospital. Suddenly separated from her comatose body, she is given the opportunity to choose life or embrace death.
The brunt of the narrative lifting in If I Stay rests on the shoulders of Chloe Grace Moretz. As the story flits between the present day and flashback, it is Moretz who is the constant. Her performance is one of immense subtlety as she conveys her character’s journey from squeaky clean classical musician to the girlfriend of a rocker.
The scenes of turmoil and anxiety within the hospital could easily have become a mess of screeching melodrama. However, in the hands of Moretz, they are perfectly pitched. Like Shailene Woodley in 2014’s other teen weepy The Fault in Our Stars, Moretz reins her performance in when it needs to be, so that the explosions of emotion have real impact when they do arrive.
| "Isn’t it amazing how life is one thing and then, in an instant, it becomes something else?"
Unfortunately, Moretz is just about the only subtle thing about If I Stay. The narrative itself is about as nuanced as a sledgehammer to the face. In the first act, it’s made a little too clear that Mia has an ideal life – cool parents, oodles of talent and a bright future.
Those parents are played with real gusto by Mireille Enos and Joshua Leonard, who steal many of the film’s wittiest lines. Their characters are underwritten, but they really help the frothier parts of the story. It’s down to Moretz and the refreshingly spiky Jamie Blackley to carry the narrative’s dramatic core.
Equally obvious is the emotional manipulation that will power the rest of the story. From the moment we hear the skid of the car’s wheels, it’s obvious exactly how the fates of the rest of the family are going to pan out.
| "Guilt and bribery are the glue that have held parents and teenagers together for generations. Don’t fight tradition."
If I Stay does deserve credit, though, for keeping its audience guessing at the end. It’s genuinely difficult to predict whether Mia will live or die until the final moments and the third act is an excellent example of continuously escalating emotion.
The film is not even close to The Fault in Our Stars in terms of its impact, but it’s a solid attempt at a teen romance.
Pop or Poop?
In a film of little nuance, Chloe Grace Moretz gives a glittering performance. It will surely be the first of many dramatic leads for her as she kicks her career up a gear.
Unfortunately, If I Stay doesn’t exactly hit the heights of its competition, suffering from a number of very underwritten supporting players.
However, with an unpredictable ending and a surprising amount of wit, it’s definitely worth watching.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.