If I Stay is based on the best-selling book of the same title, a book which I particularly enjoyed. The film follows the story of Mia (Chloë Grace Moretz), a young cello playing, classical music loving teen. She meets Adam (Jamie Blackley) and the two predictably fall head over heels for each other, which as her mum (Mireille Enos) so truthfully points out, is very inconvenient at their age. All seems swell until Mia and her family are involved in a fatal car crash, causing Mia to experience an out of body experience where she must decide if she wants to live or if she wants to die.
If I Stay is a very disappointing movie. I had hopes for this movie. High hopes, one could call it. I fell in love with the book, although not quite as in love as these two teens act, and the trailers could only be described as gorgeous. A statement I and at least one of my friends could agree on, most of my others weren't bothered to watch the trailer. I sat down, ignoring the warnings I'd been given, and for the first twenty minutes it wasn't too bad. In fact, I was enjoying it. It wasn't perfect, not even close, but it was decent. It soon hit the forty minute mark and there'd been a minimal amount of time spent in the hospital. I was loosing interest. Then it hit the hour mark, and also the second time I checked my watch. At least from here on out, the film maintained a steady quality, which is different to the slowly declining quality of the first hour. Then the film ended, thankfully. Although it was abrupt, I didn't care. I just wanted to leave, and leave I did. It was actually more of a jog if I'm perfectly frank. A jog to get out of the cinema and return to the realistic, imperfect world that we live in. A world were teenagers don't fall in love and stick with each other forever, a query that usually I'm ok with in teen films, but in this case I'm not.
Chloë Grace Moretz does a wonderful job with what she's got to work with. I have never found myself insulting her performances, even if some of her films aren't the best, and in some cases their far from it. She picks the fun films. In these films she never fails. She is one of the best young actresses working in Hollywood right now and her performance in If I Stay is the only thing it's really got going for it. Without her, this film would be excruciating. She's able to bring a pulse to this lifeless movie, although a beating heart would help too. The film tries so hard to be a tear jerker, but is unable to. The book is quite the opposite, actually. It's heartbreaking. That's because it knows how to create real people, something the movie poorly attempts to recreate.
When the film gets to its final act, it's only here where it discovers how to stir emotion. There's a very touching scene that occurs towards the end of the film. I won't spoil what it is, but it moved me. It's something that the film could have used a whole lot earlier, but it just didn't. It wasted time on the clichéd ridden love story between Mia and Adam, which is really supposed to be a minor aspect of this tale, rather than giving us time to care about the family we're meant to be rooting for. The family we're meant to want to live. Between the moments of mushy love, they do try to do just that, with her parents especially. It's the younger brother Teddy that's the least fleshed out character of the lot. He gets hardly any screen time, but at around the mid point of the film he's meant to be a crucial character. Odd seeings as how people who haven't read the book won't even remember his name by the time this scene comes around.
To sum up, If I Stay is led by wonderful performance from Chloë Grace Moretz, but she fails to save this film's clichéd, mushy and lifeless screenplay with little emotion and not enough time spent with the right characters.