Reviewed by Daniel Janks: actor, creative director, writer, cynic, father, husband. He was born in 1977 and has still not died. He loves many things, chief among which are his mythic wife and odd girl-child. Visit his website.
Director R.J. Cutler
Writer Shauna Cross
Cast Chloë Grace Moretz, Mireille Enos, Jamie Blackley
AGE RESTRICTION: [PG-13]
KEEP YOUR CHILDREN AWAY! People kiss in this movie, and even make love at one point, I think. Why one would not allow 10-13 year olds to see this movie is beyond me, as they are probably the only people who will enjoy it.
Blech! It’s like a tablespoon full of saccharine. It’s sweet but completely artificial.
I can’t help but draw parallels between If I Stay and A Fault in our Stars. On paper they seem so comparable. Both deal with young women and their relationships to young men. Both look at first love, budding adulthood and young life on the brink of death. Both feature brave young actresses emerging out of the world of child stardom into the dubious and treacherous arena of adult stardom. But where one is fresh, and enchanting and seductive, the other is boring, sentimental and left me thinking halfway through the film: “Should I Stay … till the end?” Can you guess which is which?
Mia Hall is a virtuosic cello player, born to two reformed-rocker parents and a victim of her own timidity and teenage self-doubt. When she meets Adam, a year older but eons more mature, a confidant rock-band leader and budding star, she is pulled slowly and painfully out of her shell and blossoms into a beautiful young woman who comes into her own during an audition for the prestigious Juilliard Music Academy.
Oh, hang on, she also gets into a car accident at one point and spends the film as a spirit/ghost/barefoot-wraith-thing who watches herself in a coma trying to decide whether or not she should come back to life as an orphan. There’s no spoilers here, it’s all in the trailer. In fact if you’ve seen the trailer you’ve seen the film. Anything they don’t show you, you can guess, I promise, there are no surprises or twists in the full-length version.
There are two standout performances in the film. Mireille Enos and Joshua Leonard play Mia’s mom and dad, and they shine. They have the relatively easy task of playing cool, easygoing, dedicated parents. It’s hard not to win over an audience playing cool, easygoing, dedicated parents. But they do it with style and flair and I loved watching them every minute they were on screen.
Other than them there isn’t much to say. Where Shailene Woodley shone like an approaching meteor in the sky in The Fault in our Stars, Chloë Grace Moretz falls a little flat in If I Stay. She has moments of real fire and spunk, moments of irresistibility and charm, but they are sadly few and far between. I think she could be a great and charismatic actress, but it feels like she needs a deft hand to direct her, and that was conspicuous in its absence in this performance. The rest of the cast are sadly forgettable, including Mia’s true love boyfriend played by Jamie Blackley. Whose performance I have unfortunately forgotten.
This seems to be the first major motion picture that R.J. Cutler has directed, and I’ll be interested to see if it’s his last. The film flatly fails to find it’s rhythm and Cutler seems to miss almost all the opportunities to imbue the film with some sort of stylistic flavour. The few moments he manages to do it are regrettably few, and end up being more jarring than interesting because of their out-of-place-ness. The rest of the film is cloyingly American-TV sentimental and predictable and left me alternating between giggles of nonplussed inappropriate amusement and sneering in disbelieving incredulity.
Send your twelve year old, despite the age restriction, because he/she will probably love it. If you’re an adult go watch the trailer, it’s quicker and less painful than the real thing, with all the story and character the full length version has to offer.