If I Stay 

Engaging performance by Chloe Grace Moretz elevates this supernatural teen drama

If I Stay is a movie that asks whether an acceptance letter from a prestigious college can resurrect the dead. It's also a genteel teenage melodrama whose plates are galvanized from time to time by arresting, unexpectedly acute lines of dialogue or self-sacrificial acts.

Chloë Grace Moretz plays Mia, a well-spoken, well-adjusted teenager whose life is in flux: She seems happy, but she may have issues. However, before she — or the audience — can figure out exactly what those issues are, Mia, her parents (Mireille Enos and Joshua Leonard) and her little brother (Jakob Davies) get into a serious car accident. Mia ends up in a coma, but her mind remains restless and active. The rest of the film follows Mia's disembodied spirit as it wanders barefoot around the same hospital where determined medical professionals work to save her and her family's lives. As she sees scenes from her life flash before her, she is faced with a simple choice: Does she return to her body and live out her life or go into the light and leave our world? And if she does remain on earth, which direction will her life take?

Like other YA novels-turned-movies like The Fault in Our Stars and The Hunger Games series, If I Stay's protagonist is a smart girl. Moretz is comfortable in this role; she played a cute, damaged smart girl in last year's underrated Carrie remake, and she played a cute, psychotic one in the Kick-Ass movies. She's a teen titan who shape-shifts like Ant-Man or Giant-Man. She's tiny and soft-voiced enough to disappear into the crowd or the shadows, but her heart-shaped face and elfin friskiness propel her into the center of a scene whenever she chooses.

click to enlarge Chloë Moretz is trapped between worlds in If I Stay.
  • Chloë Moretz is trapped between worlds in If I Stay.

At my other job, I see and work with smart girls like Mia all day long. It's funny; to many of their peers, these girls' intelligence, beauty, and sensitivity are intimidating and scary because they get their teenage kicks from unusual places. In a series of flashbacks, we see that, for Mia, it's the cello: she resists her parents' love of rock-and-roll and pursues classical music instead. Practicing Beethoven may limit her circle of friends, but she soon catches the eye of handsome, chivalrous rocker Adam (Jamie Blackley).

Prefabricated conflicts aside, Adam is a harmless, boring drip, just like Mia's insufferably tolerant and cool ex-punk-rock parents, who are always one straggler's dinner party away from their own Portlandia sketch. Yet in spite of this ballast, If I Stay floats above a tar pit of sentimentality for three-fourths of its run time, and when the sentimental goop finally bubbles up onscreen, it's not so bad.

This kind of shrugging praise probably makes If I Stay sound pretty run of the mill. It is, for the most part. But this kind of teenage tearjerker touches on more of the human experience in any given scene than most current blockbusters do in their entire run time. Few people can remember the first time they killed a man or saved the galaxy from Ronan the Accuser, but plenty of people can remember their first crush. When Mia sits down cross-legged on her bed and talks to Adam, who's climbed up the side of the house to see her, the scene evokes the thrilling fear of letting someone else into your life for the first time. Scenes like these are rousing accidents in movies like this, which are as glossy and visually exciting as the average USA Network family drama.


Speaking of...

If I Stay
Rated PG-13 · 106 min. · 2014
Official Site: www.ifistaymovie.com
Director: R.J. Cutler
Writer: Shauna Cross
Producer: Alison Greenspan, Denise DiNovi, Gayle Forman and Brad Van Arragon
Cast: Chloe Grace Moretz, Mireille Enos, Liana Liberato, Lauren Lee Smith, Jamie Blackley, Aliyah O'Brien and Joshua Leonard


Now Playing

If I Stay is not showing in any theaters in the area.


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

    • Death Grip

      Memphis filmmaker Sam Bahre talks about his 11-year struggle to create I Filmed Your Death.
    • Ready Player One

      Spielberg mines the past and present in this virtual adventure
    • Isle Of Dogs

      Wes Anderson returns to animation with this charming fable.


We Saw You

Drew Erwin opens downtown studio. Plus party news.

Music Blog

Keith Sykes Leads Ardent Into a New Era

Film/TV/Etc. Blog

"1,300 Men: Memphis Strike '68" To Screen At Main Library

Politics Beat Blog

Weekend Review: Confederate Statues Loom Over GOP Debates

News Blog

Haslam Signs Bill for Sunday Wine, Liquor Sales

News Blog

GoFundMe for City Draws Dollars, Criticism

Music Blog

MonoNeon Featured in Bandcamp Daily

Hungry Memphis

Parade Kicks Off Hot Wing Festival


More by Addison Engelking

Readers also liked…

  • Inferno

    Tom Hanks, Your Country Needs You
    • Nov 3, 2016
  • Goodbye Christopher Robin

    • Nov 3, 2017
  • Free In Deed

    The acclaimed, made-in-Memphis drama makes its theatrical debut
    • Dec 8, 2016
© 1996-2018

Contemporary Media
460 Tennessee Street, 2nd Floor | Memphis, TN 38103
Visit our other sites: Memphis Magazine | Memphis Parent | Inside Memphis Business
Powered by Foundation