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If I Stay - Review

If I Stay

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 2 out of 5

THE latest adaptation of a Young Adult novel, If I Stay is an emotionally manipulative, terminally dreary film that struggles to make the most out of its usually reliable leading lady, Chloe Grace Moretz.

Adapted from the novel of the same name by Gayle Forman, the film follows a promising young cello player, Mia (Moretz), who has reached a crossroads in her life: choosing between accepting a place at the prestigious Julliard or remaining at home in Portland to keep her boyfriend, also a promising singer, happy.

Her life changes dramatically in an instant, however, when she and her family are left in a coma following a car crash in the snow. Trapped in hospital in an out-of-body state, Mia must decide whether to stay among the living or choose death.

The ensuing film, directed by RJ Cutler, cuts between the hospital as events surrounding Mia’s family take increasingly dramatic turns, and flashbacks of her life, including her sweeping romance with up-and-coming rock-star Adam (Jamie Blackley).

Cutler’s film deserves some credit for making some bold choices with the fate of certain characters and includes a genuinely moving supporting performance from Stacy Keach, as Mia’s crestfallen grandfather.

But in most other respects, the film struggles to be anywhere near as emotionally engaging, or indeed heartbreaking, as the subject matter suggests it should. Much of this is down to the heavy-handed nature of Cutler’s direction, which is heavy on melodrama and light on humour (despite attempting to inject it during some of the flashback sequences).

Indeed, some of the heavier material is so stifling that it feels overtly manipulative, which is in stark contrast to the far superior weepie The Fault In Our Stars earlier this year (which earnt your years more honestly).

Perhaps even more damaging to the film’s prospects, however, is the sense that neither of the main characters are that endearing. Mia is so self-serious that her appeal is limited solely to teen girls, while Blackley’s Adam is a little wet and similarly self-centred. It doesn’t help that there is very little chemistry between the leading pair.

Indeed, it’s the adults that fare best with Joshua Leonard and Mireille Enos also putting in some decent work as Mia’s parents.

But these are but small comforts in a film that never really haunts, inspires or lingers in the way that it really should.

Certificate: 12A
Running time: 107mins
UK Release Date: August 29, 2014

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