If I Stay

While the movie is hard to watch given the tragedy, it has its rewards. But be warned that it’s tough to endure.

If I StayIf I Stay is a disjointed hybrid of The Fault in Our Stars and Begin Again. While it lacks the sincerity of both those films, it still has some rewarding moments thanks largely to a tremendous performance by Chloë Grace Moretz.

There is no question that Ms. Moretz, only 17 years old, is a remarkably talented actress. She has demonstrated that in a various movies ranging from Kick Ass (2010); Diary of a Wimpy Kid (also 2010); Hugo (2011); and Dark Shadows (2012). However, if you really want to observe her talent, hunt her down as the young vampire who befriends a lonely boy in her apartment complex in the memorable Let Me In (2010).

Here, Ms. Moretz plays Mia Hall, a 17-year old high school student waiting to see if Julliard would accept her based on her command of the cello. Raised by loving parents, played with warmth by Mireille Enos and Joshua Leonard, she tries to maintain her balance given the fact that her father, a school teacher, once played in his own rock band.

Mia becomes hopelessly unhinged when she falls madly in love with Adam (played rather well by Jamie Blackley), a budding rock star. While nearly every girl he gets near moons over him, his attraction to Mia becomes largely based on her initial disinterest.

He’s also older than her, and the road trips with his band are bound to cause problems. It’s initially really hard to care about their relationship, as who can really imagine any budding rock star finding true love at the age of 21, much less a 17-year old who has yet to fly from her cocoon at home.

As a member of the audience, you know you are in trouble when you start caring for a couple while harboring the thought, “Who really cares?” It also helps that the rock music is at times really good, as is Mia’s performance with the cello.

As most of you know, the movie centers on tragedy resulting from an automobile accident. While this is a Spoiler Alert, Mia’s family is killed and she is left unconscious in the hospital on the edge of death. The last half of the movie deals with her living outside of her body, reflecting on a lost life and watching bereaving friends come to visit.

The movie rapidly visits various events in her past, and your heart actually breaks thinking of her dead parents. On top of that, Stacy Keach is spot on playing Mia’s grandfather, a man who prays that she lives while vocally giving her the courage to face death.

Julliard may be calling for Mia while packed arenas are doing the same for Adam, and no young people stand a possible chance competing in that environment. Keira Knightley had to wait until Adam Levine had an affair on the road before dumping him, and you know that is going to eventually happen to our two young lovers in If I Stay. Unfortunately, neither has the experience to understand that reality.

In a great moment before the accident, Mia’s mother tells her that life frequently is messy and slightly smelly. On the other hand, she also noted that in the midst of such chaos people find joy. You end up hoping that Mia survives to realize that fact.