90. If I Stay
2014, 106 Minutes
Director: R.J. Cutler
Starring: Chloë Grace Moretz, Mireille Enos & Jamie Blackley
By J.T. Tepnapa
AFTER THE mostly heralded The Fault in Our Stars comes If I Stay, another bestselling young adult novel made into a major motion picture. This time with the very talented Chloë Grace Moretz playing the lead, Mia Hall. Only this time critics mostly savaged the syrupy screenplay and manipulative young adult structure. And unlike the critically acclaimed The Fault in our Stars, the leads live perfect storybook lives.
But isn’t that the point of If I Stay? What if you had the perfect life and then you lose that? Would you have the will to live through a horrific tragedy?
Mia Hall is a wunderkind cellist who finds true love with rocker, Adam (Jamie Blackley). She has a loving supportive family, a chance to get into the premier music school, Julliard. Her life hangs in the balance after a tragic car accident leaves her family dead and herself in a coma. If I Stay adds a out-of-body experience to the story. Once outside her physical body, Mia has the choice to stay and live through the pain and loss of her family or go into the bright light and leave all that pain behind.
“Sometimes you make choices in life and sometimes choices make you.”
Her life and relationship with Adam plays out like a perfect love story while she wrestles with her choice to stay or go. Yes, it’s romantic. Yes, bits of dialog that probably play well in a novel end up sounding melodramatic on screen. Yes, every song seems to manipulate and tug at your heart. And you know what? For me. It worked. I was sobbing and crying into my sleeves for the last 30 minutes. My shirt was soaked with tears. I put myself into the shoes of Mia Hall and understood the decision before her. I ate up every juicy bit of melodrama and said, “More, please!” Live for love, Mia!
MY FAVORITE moments actually came from actress Aisha Hinds, playing Nurse Ramirez. She’s like Mia’s guardian angel, telling her to hold on. Her voice and presence are a constant reminder that life is a gift, and Mia has the choice to keep it or let it go. Even characters with the smallest roles can leave you breathless with a solid performance.
Benjamin and Tim’s relationship in Something Like Summer is not as perfect as Mia’s and Adam’s. They are flawed young men striving for something more in their lives. And being gay just complicates their passionate and fragile relationship. If I Stay ends before Mia and Adam’s love and diverging dreams get too complicated. Apparently, novelist Gayle Forman answers those questions in her sequel, Where She Went.
Something Like Summer not only explores the artistic dreams of Ben and Tim, it also unblushingly explores a tumultuous relationship full of passion, dreams, agony and redemption. It’s a 12-year love story that I hope to artfully unfold in a feature film. Where If I Stay keeps you weeping and tugging at your sleeves, I hope bring to screen more thrills and glee in Summer’s rollercoaster relationship.
If I Stay forced me to examine my own life. It’s not perfect, it’s rarely what I want when I want it. But it’s my life. My own gift. Whether life is a special gift from the universe or it’s just winning the genetic lottery, it doesn’t really matter, and I believe that if I had Mia’s choice. I would choose life. It might be messy. Sometimes painful. But it’ll never be boring.
Is If I Stay an instant classic? Probably not. But I give the movie three broken hearts for the ability break me down and make me cry. Oh, how I love to cry! I feel so alive when a film can move me to tears. Yes, I’m weird.
Now available on DVD and streaming on Amazon.