Based on Gayle Forman's best-selling novel, this romantic, emotionally powerful film tells the compelling story of a young woman facing the ultimate choice. Seventeen-year-old Mia (Chloe Grace Moretz) is a gifted musician with a bright future and an adoring boyfriend, Adam. But after a tragic accident, everything changes for Mia in the blink of an eye and she finds herself caught between life and death. Over one fateful day, Mia must make a final heart-wrenching decision that will determine her future: let go and move on to whatever comes next...or stay with the love of her life.
If I Stay wants us to care about a girl in a coma. It’s a story that wants us to root for her recovery and hope she’ll make it through. But what incentive does she need to come back to reality? The young Mia Hall (Chloe Grace Moretz) seems to have a pretty great life ahead of her. She’s a brilliant cello prodigy who had an audition at Juilliard and has a boyfriend waiting by her side in the hospital. Why wouldn’t you still want to be alive? This is the only real conflict in this girl’s life - deciding if she wants to wake up to her fruitful future. And then a new goal become apparent: making you not care about a girl waking up from a coma.
Based on a best-selling novel, the movie comes off incredibly hammy by its artificial assembly. Mia’s high school life is a fairy tale. Her dad used to be in a band and her family is way into music to an annoying hipster degree. Her favorite crush has asked her out on a date to a concert (a classical music concert because that’s her thing). Skip ahead a few weeks and she finds herself and her family in a car crash. She awakes out of body to watch her family and her body be carried off to the hospital. As she lays in a coma, the sagely black nurse whispers into Mia’s ear that it’s up to her to wake up. Thanks, Oracle. What’s the positive about not returning to her body? She can walk around as a ghost and never talk to or touch anybody in the hospital. Tough call, right? To live or not to live
While we wait for Mia to make the easiest decision any sane person would make, we’re treated to flashbacks of the day leading up to the crash. Mia’s world seems to be alright in her progression with the cello, her perfected relationship with her parents and her boyfriend relationship which seems far too honest. These sections of her life appear too sappy and simple to be relatable. Is that perhaps the twist in that Mia’s memories are better than what really transpired in her life? No, the movie is not that deep. It seriously wants to be the first-world revision of It’s A Wonderful Life where everything in life is sweet and the only reason not to come back is because...I don’t know, you don’t have to get out of bed?
The story is based on a novel by Gayle Forman who spent most of her career writing for Seventeen Magazine, Glamour Magazine and Cosmopolitan Magazine. Her idea for the story was based around her own experience of being in a coma where she was still aware of those around her. She combined her near-death scenario with her artificial grasp of trends to breed a teen drama that is exactly how you’d expect to be written by a woman in her 40’s. Mia is portrayed as a cello music nerd so all she listens to is classical obviously. Her dad was a former rock star so it’s obviously all they talk about. And, of course, Mia’s boyfriend is a musician himself that makes him an easy sell for the parents. It’s that sugary hipster vibe that lingers so long even hipsters will get sick of its music-themed dressing.
And Chloe Grace Moretz is such a great young actress. Why is she wasting her time with a script that gives her so little to work with? She’s really grasping at straws attempting to inject so real emotion into such a flat character. You’d think that a person who finds themselves in a coma wandering the hospital corridors would have something more deeper to ponder about the afterlife. It’s clear within five minutes of the first flashback that her life is a fairytale worth coming back to. So why does the film feel the need to elongate itself with more melodrama? Am I supposed to feel something after her third spat with the boyfriend that maybe they won’t stay a couple if she goes off to college? Perhaps I would if she weren’t such a wooden cartoon of the music nerd template.
If I Stay offers little to no reason to continue watching. There’s no major choice for the character to make, no huge revelation to shock and no characters worth caring about. It’s a manipulative little drama better suited for the smaller screen than embarrassing itself on the big one. It’s a hokey and corny experience hoping to cash-in on the market for young adults by approaching the subject of death with more melodrama than a soap opera. And for as much as the movie wants to boast about the music scene, it presents some of the most cornball tracks I’ve ever heard. Maybe the director thought it would make the picture more cool with the kids by including Sonic Youth and The Orwells to the soundtrack. This is pure wish-fulfillment filmmaking of the lowest and shlockiest quality.