Wednesday, August 13, 2014

If I Stay: Movie Review

Come for the tears, stay for the romance.

If I Stay builds up the characters and their relationships long before it really presents the title dilemma, but that’s probably best for your tear ducts. Only a fraction of the movie is set in present day but the car accident that places 17-year-old Mia Hall (Chloe Grace Moretz) in a coma is at the beginning and then we get flashbacks to her childhood, musical education and especially to her boyfriend Adam. It’s just as much a romantic drama as it is a tear-jerker. 2014

Directed by: R.J. Cutler

Screenplay by: Shauna Cross
Based on novel by Gayle Forman

Starring: Chloe Grace Moretz, and Jamie Blackley

The movie is also very much a teen romantic drama. Moretz is the sole lead, Jamie Blackley as boyfriend Adam is her second-in-command, and best friend Kim (Liana Liberato) is just as important in her upbringing into who she is and who she will become as her parents are. It’s about first love and lost love and college. It’s about struggling to fit in and finding somebody to love you for who you really are as long as you love yourself first.

Now all of the above actually plays second fiddle to the music. Mia is a cellist, her parents are fading rock and roll hippies and boyfriend Adam is a rising rock and roll star. And this is how the film chooses to set the story up: the dilemma between classical music and punk rock. As if everybody is one or the other. I believe they’re setting themselves to lose a lot of the audience since everybody doesn’t fit into one of those two extremes. Unfortunately this is also how the film presents the outsider complex. Mia feels like she’s on the outside looking in because she likes Beethoven while her loved ones like The Ramones. “How can you possibly stay together if you don’t like the same music?” one might ask sarcastically.

And then we’re presented with what really holds the film together. Moretz does a fantastic job slowly growing into a strong young woman who has to fight to stay alive and has to figure out what she wants first. And then not to be outdone by his more famous, celebrated co-star, Blackley matches her adorableness with a relatable confidence and the two have fantastic chemistry. He never quite strikes me as a bonafide rock star, but I think there’s two good reasons for that; one being that we mostly see him on his way to becoming a rock star. Mia is also just on her way to becoming an accomplished cellist.

The film talks up Portland a lot, showing off about their musical heritage and their good schools, but don’t expect to see many actual Portland locales as the film is actually shot in BC. It also has a few odd structural problems – giving her reasons to leave but she doesn’t bat an eye then giving her reasons to stay and then all of a sudden she’s thinking about shuffling off this mortal coil. But that won’t affect many people’s enjoyment of the film because she has reasons to stay and she has many reasons to fear her unknown future and you’re going to cry throughout her whole journey. If I Stay is a tear-jerker, it’s heartbreaking but it’s also romantic and is ultimately a cute coming-of-age tale of life and death.

Similar Titles:

Begin Again (2013) - Straddles the line between indie and Hollywood well; delivering a feel-good, enjoyable story.

What If (2013) - Simply a romantic comedy with romance and comedy.

That Awkward Moment (2014) - Funny moments and moments that just fall flat.

The Spectacular Now (2013) - Floats around life with two good performances.

The Best of Me (2014) - The worst of Nicholas Sparks.