If I Stay (2014)

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We now live in a time where Young Adult novels are full of forced melodrama, unrealistic characters, unrealistic portrayals of love, and usually someone dying/getting really sick. I’m getting really sick of these similar stories that go above and beyond to get me to cry. The Fault In Our Stars stands out among the bunch, but even it gets a bit melodramatic from time-to-time. So, here we are with another cheesy love story that’s sure to provide more unrealistic expectations of love and make target audience members cry their eyes out… Sigh…

Mia and her Cello are on-the-go.
Mia and her Cello are on-the-go.

Mia (Chloe Grace Moretz) is your average, run-of-the-mill girl who plays the Cello incredibly well. She never thinks people will notice her because she doesn’t know who she is yet. Unlike Adam (Jamie Blackley), the rock star in the school who is already on his way out. Why would he ever notice a girl like her? Well, because he sees the passion she has for the Cello, which causes him to strike-up a conversation and eventually ask Mia out. She’s stunned by affection and panic, but accepts his offer and then the two begin seeing each other regularly. Mia doesn’t quite understand it all, but she can’t deny that she’s happier than she’s ever been.

One snow day, her family decides to go on a trip and gets into a terrible car crash, which leaves everyone fatally wounded. Mia dead. Mia, somehow, is stuck in a purgatorial state that allows her to observe the world and follow her body to the hospital. As things worsen for her, a nurse whispers in her ear that whether she lives, or passes on, is completely up to her. As she contemplates whether or not she’ll fight to survive, she reminisces on the time spent with her parents (Mireille Enos & Joshua Leonard), with her best-friend Kim (Liana Liberato), and Adam. She also has a potential acceptance to Julliard, but are all these things worth it to keep her there?

Mia races to check on the condition of her family.
Mia races to check on the condition of her family.

If I Stay is another “acclaimed” young-adult novel that’s taken young teenage girls by storm and the film result is nothing short of what I expected. I read the book before I was asked to interview the lead actress and author of the novel and I thought the book was fine. My interviews went very well and both were lovely to meet and talk with, but that doesn’t change this distaste I had for this film that tries way too hard to be something that it’s not. However, I am certain that teenage girls across the world will fall in love with another unrealistic romance that elicits a ton of emotion, if you’re into to overly melodramatic scenarios.

Mireille Enos and Stacy Keach are the only redeeming qualities that this film has. As a loving and awesome mother, Enos is always their for her child and is willing to support her in every aspect of life. Despite being a punk rocker as a young-adult, she gets that her daughter plays the Cello and she takes on the responsibility of a mother, in order to make sure her child has the best possible future. She can be sassy when she needs to be, but she’s most often loving and it feels like a real love that a mother would have for her daughter. The Grandpa is also quite loving and he’s the only aspect of this film that will make you cry because of true sentimentality. There’s a speech that he delivers that’s heartbreakingly beautiful and during that speech, his performance is pure and feels like something you would actually see and hear in a real life situation.

Mia and her mother dress-up for Halloween.
Mia and her mother dress-up for Halloween.

Now, Chloe-Grace Moretz was absolutely wonderful to talk with in person. She’s a really genuine person and she’s very “normal”, considering the Hollywood status she has. I’ve liked her in most everything I’ve seen her in, but I found this performance to be her worst by far and away. She’s not awful, but she’s nowhere close to good in this film and that was a huge letdown. She’s practically carrying the film on her back and how is it supposed to come off as real, when her shrieks of pain and loss seem completely fake? Her Mia is so self-conscious to the point of annoyance and the smallest things will set her off on some tirade about how life isn’t fair. I just was really bothered by her lack or realism and I didn’t really believe that her tears, her hurt, and her love were any more than some attempt at acting.

Newcomer Jamie Blakeley also did nothing for me, as his romantic leading man is yet another impossible standard for men to meet. I get that it’s all fictional, but this character is just absurdly stupid and the things he does and gets upset about seem nearly impossible in real life. He goes above and beyond to woo Moretz (including replicating the ceiling of a music hall in her bedroom with dozens of sheets of paper) and often leaves her hanging when he tours, but then gets mad when she’s reluctant to tell him about a Juilliard audition. His tears are almost as fake as his emotions and his delivery of cliche lines has to be one of the most painful things that I’ve had to sit through all year. I was laughing at most of what he said and I’m thankful that I wasn’t alone in my laughter. He and Moretz didn’t click on-screen and that’s essentially what this movie is about. I’m supposed to believe that he may be the determining factor about whether or not she stays? If I was her, I certainly wouldn’t.

Mia remembers one of the best days of her life.
Mia remembers one of the best days of her life.

If there wasn’t already enough to roll my eyes at in this film, the dialogue and forced melodrama only made things worse. There was nothing cute within the relationship between Moretz and Blackley and all of their dialogue is just a combination of cheesy lines and things that an adult would think up, which don’t work in the mouths of teenagers. The whole “you when someone already is who they’re meant to be” crap got on my nerves form the get-go and the constant questioning of Moretz’s likability was obnoxious. As for the melodrama, I get that it’s not easy when your family members are in pain. I think that most everyone can relate to that, but this film (and the book) just adds more death and despair to the character of Mia, but it can never be all at once. Just as she gets hopeful, another tragedy strikes. Oh, and of course she’ll receive her acceptance/denial letter to Juilliard on the day she may, or may not die. You can’t forget the gentle piano and intense violins that attempt to make things more sad than they already are.

If I Stay is hardly going to stay in my mind for much longer and I can’t wait to forget about it. It’s just another throwaway Young Adult film that never even comes close to scratching the surface of true emotion. If you thought the extraordinary The Fault In Our Stars was melodramatic (which I did only slightly), then prepare yourself for an even more sappy display of fictionalized teenage romance. Emphasis on the FICTIONALIZED because this romance is as phony as it gets. I had to see an eye doctor afterwards, in order to keep my eyes from rolling around. Enos and Keach were amazing and then there’s the rest of the film that’s laughably bad. Were it my money, just go see anything else.

If I Stay Trailer
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wH6PNeTy6Nc

1.5 STARS!!!

1.5 / 5 stars     

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