If I Stay is directed by R.J. Cutler who is better known for documentaries and television as opposed to feature films and as such is an interesting choice. The film is based on a best selling book of the same title written by Gayle Forman that was published in 2009 and topped a variety of best seller lists.
The film is a teenage romance story wrapped around a terrible car crash. Chloe Grace Moretz plays the part of Mia Hall, a talented cello player, who catches the eye of the lead singer of local band, Adam, played by Jamie Blackley. The film is something of a departure for Moretz who is best known for the Kick Ass franchise and perhaps marks an attempt to reach out to a wider audience.
The film is told largely in flashback as Mia relives her romance with Adam at the same time as dealing with (and this is in the trailer) losing her parents as a result of the car crash. She faces the ultimate decision to live on without her parents or give up and walk into the light.
It is at this stage that I should say that if you are a teenage girl or young woman you should read to the end of this paragraph and then stop. Beyond this point I will be giving my views as to the suitability of this film for the general film goer. Disclaimer over, this film appeared to work for its intended audience. On leaving the cinema I had to jump into a kayak to travel up the river of tears flowing towards the screen. The film leans heavily on the romance and features a powerful scene in which Mia’s grandfather gives her permission to go. If this sounds like your thing then this film will cater very well for your needs.
On the other hand if you are not into teenage romance then keep your money in your pocket and stay away. I am a 35 year-old man and while I wouldn’t go as far as to say I hated this film it was an extremely painful watch. There is one scene after another of Mia and Adam declaring undying love for each other (I’m probably exaggerating the undying love thing) before the inevitable falling out.
Some of the plot points are barmy and they include a plan for the two of them to move in together when Mia graduates high school. Please note that she is 17 years old in the film. One minute Adam is her first boyfriend but in what feels like just a few moments later they are getting intimate in an old boat shed. One minute there is a wall of security preventing Adam from getting into the Intensive Care Unit, the next, everyone including Tom, Dick and Harry are being allowed in.
On a more technical point I don’t think telling the story in flashback worked. I understand the film follows how the book was written and suggests the Studio was focused on satisfying that demographic. I think the story would have been better served by the narrative taking a linear approach until the car crash and the flashback being used to show her internal struggle as to whether to stay or go. Further to that point the film needed to pull back on the romance and feature more of the decision making process as this would have delivered a more rounded product.
I don’t think it would be appropriate to critique the acting of the performers in the film as they didn’t have a lot to work with. That being said, I was impressed by Stacy Keach who played the role of Mia’s grandfather despite having very little screen time.
To summarise, by all means go and see this film if its your bag as I have no doubt it will deliver for you. However, don’t expect another The Fault in Our Stars which is a far superior all round film.