If I Stay

Directed By: R. J. Cutler

Starring: Chloë Grace Moretz, Mireille Enos, Joshua Leonard, Stacy Keach, and Jamie Blackley

Here's the secret baby.  If you live, if you die, it's all up to you.  So whatever fight you got in you, you gotta pull it out now.
-Surgeon (Uncredited)

I was able to dodge The Fault In Our Stars earlier this year.  I have no interest whatsoever in depressing, melodramatic YA adaptations like this.  The sole intention of a film of this nature is to tug at the heartstrings of young susceptible moviegoers, particularly those of the female gender.  Depressing content and dramatic entertainment are not always one and the same.  I can certainly enjoy films like The Impossible and Million Dollar Baby, but these films are less about an overarching sad tone and more about the will of the human spirit.  I can't say the same about some of these YA adaptations, however.  As fate would have it, I'm covering this weekend's If I Stay.

Mia Hall (Chloë Grace Moretz) has two loving parents in Kat (Mireille Enos) and Denny (Joshua Leonard).  She has a wonderful little brother named Teddy (Jakob Davies).  A skilled cellist emulating Yo-Yo Ma, she has a great college education ahead of her, possibly at Juilliard.  All of that changes on a fateful snow day that leads to tragedy.  Mia and her family end up in a fatal car accident.  Her mother dies on the scene.  Her father dies at the hospital on the operating table.  Her little brother dies shortly thereafter.  Comatose, Mia is the only one still breathing.  Separated from her body and witnessing all the chaos that ensues with her loved ones, Mia has a choice, to stay with her grandfather (Stacy Keach) or go with her loved ones who have already passed away.  A pivotal player in this decision will be her on-again, off-again rocker boyfriend Adam (Jamie Blackley).  As she makes the most important choice of her possibly short life, she reflects on the time she had with all of them.

If I Stay is a very calculated film that tugs at viewers' emotions at exactly the expected times in exactly the expected ways.  Director R. J. Cutler clearly has one sole objective, to try to make his audience shed some tears.  Not particularly in need of a good cry, I can see right through this.  Don't get me wrong.  The film boasts an intriguing premise with a spiritual element and features some solid performances from all involved.  Still, there's an order and structure to the film under Cutler's hand that detracts from its authenticity.  It doesn't help that someone who hasn't read the book like me can easily predict the film's ending.

The cast of If I Stay delivers fairly strong performances.  In her role as Mia Hall, Chloë Grace Moretz rises to the occasion and delivers a nuanced performance as this introverted cellist.  She deftly gives us a passionate romantic, a loving daughter, and a determined musician.  For their parts as Mia's parents Kat and Denny, Mireille Enos and Joshua Leonard are clearly "on" when they're on camera.  They're not the greatest old rockers from their days with the fictional band the Nasty Bruises, but they definitely convince viewers that they're loving parents.  As Mia's grandfather, veteran actor Stacy Keach lends the film gravitas in some of its more emotional scenes.  Finally, we have Jamie Blackley as the boyfriend Adam.  Sharing plenty of romantic chemistry with Moretz and performing a few musical numbers with the fictional band Willamette Stone, he hits most of the right notes on camera.

If I Stay is a very measured film, but it's entertaining.  This YA adaptation gets a 0.06% rating.  Have a couple of glasses of Chardonnay with this one.