If I Stay (PG)
Directed by: R. J. Cutler
Starring: Chloe Grace Moretz, Mireille Enos, Joshua Leonard
One and a half stars
Review by: Julian Wright
Doing it’s best to topple The Notebook from its pedestal as the world’s most popular and effective weepy for the teenage girl crowd, If I Stay pulls on every heart string and tries to wring every last tear from its audience’s eyes. Some may either succumb to the manipulations or resist them, depending on how many of these kinds of stories you have already seen.
Shy but talented musician Mia Hall (Chloe Grace Moretz) finds herself in a spiritual limbo when she is in a car crash. The lives of her mum, dad and brother are hanging by a thread, as is hers. While the doctors do their best to bring her back to consciousness, Mia’s life flashes before her eyes – life with her hippy parents, her first love with travelling musician Adam (Jamie Blackley) and the difficult decision she must make between her relationship and the next step in her musical career – which would take her to San Francisco and further away from her boyfriend.
The characteristics of this particularly melodramatic teenager are so magnified that she begins to become unrealistic. Having a privileged young girl whine and belly ache about all her life and career options for two hours feels like a string of “first world problem” memes. The script is littered with bad dialogue (her solution to a long-term relationship is “We can text!”), offensive behaviour (a mother-daughter deep and meaningful over washing dishes!), and unsubtle imagery (her first kiss is next to a big, red, glowing tunnel-shaped sculpture), eschewing any chance for a shred of honesty or relatability.
In fact at times it feels like this films is making extra effort to be unrealistic because it is trying anything that will get us sniffly and teary eyed. The rest is just so misjudged and misguided. There are perhaps a couple of miraculous moments that are genuinely upsetting (for the right reasons) but they are fleeting. The performances are adequate, Enos and Leonard are the highlights as the laid-back, free-spirit parents, but they are merely back-burner characters. Mia spends the whole film debating whether or not to stay, but we are really wishing that she would just hurry up and decide to leave.