R.J. Cutler‘s If I Stay is the latest young adult novel adaptation to boast a surprisingly decent turn from its main actress, Chloe Grace Moretz, while also occasionally slipping into mediocrity as the film’s story is drawn out a little too far past its effectiveness. If I Stay works well because of its uniquely-written characters and fresh perspective, but it quickly becomes another pedestrian affair that packs a much smaller punch than it rightfully should. Still, Chloe Grace Moretz is growing into a very talented young actress, while director R.J. Cutler leaves no sort of stamp on the material, which he adapted from writer Gayle Forman.
Young Mia Hall (Chloe Grace Moretz) is a talented musician on the cusp of graduating high school and heading off into a bright future, with her loving family and talented boyfriend. She seems to have it all, including her own fair share of stress and drama, but also so much for her to live for and suddenly that all changes once she gets into an automobile accident, which puts her into a coma and the rest of her family in critical condition. But once Mia is in a coma, she falls into an out-of-body experience, which allows her to quickly slip in and out of different moments of her life, while also being able to see herself on the hospital bed, fighting to survive.
This gives her a unique perspective on her own life, allowing her to reflect on some of the best and worst moments that she’s ever lived through. Is Mia strong enough to pull through or will her temporary coma lead into an untimely death?
If I Stay follows a very familiar premise of the main character experiencing something out-of-body, which allows them to roam the halls without a single person noticing their presence. This also allows for Chloe Grace Moretz‘s Mia to reflect on her life and truly realize and appreciate just how much she has to live for.
Director R.J. Cutler approaches the material with a steady hand for balancing out the drama and the romance, which should please just about any young adult hungry for the latest adaptation. This film follows The Fault in Our Stars in terms of starring a somewhat popular up and comer in a predictable, if not halfway decent romantic drama. If I Stay lacks comedy, but contains more authentic charm without ever coming of as trying too hard to be different or quirky, which gives it a slight advantage on the whole.
The film’s centered premise has been played out before, but that doesn’t hurt the film nearly as much as the drawn out middle act, which includes more than one pointless argument or moment of happiness. We quickly understand what kind of person Mia is and what kind of person Mia wants to eventually become, which makes moments of the film feel a bit unnecessary and damaging to the film’s pacing and overall running time.
If I Stay feels like a solid two hours, but is actually just a tad over an hour and a half. Luckily for viewers, star Chloe Grace Moretz is far more entertaining and interesting than her counterpart, played with a stiff sense of douchery by Jamie Blackley. There’s just something about Blackley’s performance that rubs me the wrong way or perhaps it comes down to the character’s core, which is mostly selfish and empty, making the film’s more serious scenes a lot harder to sit through when you’re only rooting for one of the main characters in the relationship.
There’s still a decent amount of things to enjoy, which makes If I Stay a late-summer surprise in terms of cheap romance. It tugs at the heartstrings softly and never gets too deep or sappy and that actually works to the film’s benefit. If I Stay isn’t going to stick around in your brain long after it exits theaters, but it’s harmless and sometimes engaging enough to make you forget about all of its problems, which don’t exactly kill the film, but definitely bog it down enough to keep it floating at a very average level.
If I Stay – 6.5/10