By Mark Saldana
Rating: 3 (Out of 4 Stars)
While not as powerful or well written as The Fault in Our Stars, If I Stay still is an engrossing and poignant tearjerker of a movie that is certainly worth watching. Based on the novel by Gayle Forman, screenwriter Shauna Cross and director R.J. Cutler’s film treads the familiar territory covered by most coma or life and death limbo stories. Some people may view these elements as story clichés, but that all depends on one’s beliefs on life after death and everything in between.
Chloe Grace Moretz stars as Mia Hall, a shy, introverted, but gifted cellist who reflects on her life while lying comatose in a hospital. Though an automobile accident has rocked her life off of its path, her usually carefully orchestrated life has already been disrupted when she unexpectedly falls in love with budding rock musician Adam (Jamie Blackley). During Adam’s senior year and Mia’s junior year in high school, the two begin a sweet romance that soon faces an unknown future as Adam and his band would pursue a musical career and Mia would continue her plans to study music in college. Their relationship certainly has its ups and downs, but faces its biggest challenge as the comatose Mia must decide if she should continue to live, or let go completely.
Because of the decent writing and the lovely performances of the cast, Cutler and Cross pull off the movie nicely. The movie does venture off into melodrama on occasion, but for the most part, keeps the story grounded in the reality of teen romance and the turning point that every high school graduate faces as he or she makes plans for the scary future. As for the more supernatural elements of the story, the movie never goes overboard by venturing into what some may perceive as fantasy. That perception would come from a disbelief in any form of life after death. Still, the film does utilize the usual elements people have come to expect from this type of stories: a bright light at the end of a tunnel, out of body experience, etc. If one is a staunch nonbeliever in such things, then they will play out as story clichés, but for those who do believe, this will all feel like canon.
Though the story does have its weaknesses, the earnest and genuine performances by Moretz and Blackley do help keep the movie engaging and help raise the stakes by making their characters so lovable. The supporting cast includes Mirelle Enos (Mia’s mother), Joshua Leonard (Mia’s father), Liana Liberato (Kim), Stacy Keach (Gramps), Gabrielle Rose (Gran), and Lauren Lee Smith (Willow). All of these talented actors perform well, especially Keach who has a powerful and moving scene in the movie.
Because this film’s aesthetics don’t beg to be viewed on the big screen and because it isn’t a movie that I would encourage people to rush out and see, I recommend it as either a matinee, rental, or Netflix pick. The characters, their affecting story, and the performances of the cast do deserve some attention and acclamation, but the story isn’t anything most people haven’t already seen.