Starring Chloe Grace Moretz, Jamie Blackley
Three out of five stars
Great! Another movie adapted from a young adult novel, scientifically designed to make teenage girls and 40-something movie critics cry. I’m speaking of "If I Stay," starring the irrepressibly talented Chloe Grace Moretz as Mia, a teen cello prodigy who has one glaring issue: she can’t be much of a prodigy if she’s dead.
When we first meet Mia, it’s a snowy day in Portland, Oregon. Her father (Joshua Leonard), a rocker-turned-English teacher, and little brother (Jakob Davies), get to stay home because of the bad weather, so Mia’s super-cool mother (Mireille Enos) calls in sick so the whole family can hang out together.
On this day, Mia has something else on her mind: the possibility of an acceptance letter from the prestigious Julliard School arriving in the mail. In a wonderful scene, her parents sweet talk Mia into taking a family road trip. It’s a fatal mistake.
There’s a car accident, and Mia’s soul wakes up, but her body doesn’t -- she’s suffered what could be life-ending injuries. At this point, she’s not sure how badly her family was injured. As she watches the doctors perform surgery on her, she starts to recall the most important moments of her life. These are the memories that will give her the strength to stay with the living, reclaiming her body and life. But the question is, will the memories provide enough strength for her, when it seems all else is lost?
Playing a major role in Mia’s decision is Adam (Jamie Blackley), the hunky high school rocker who falls for Mia when he notices her by herself in a music classroom, getting lost in her cello. Mia recalls their meeting and courtship as they become an adorable couple: the punk rock kid and the classical musician. But nothing is ever perfect, especially two acts into a movie. As Adam’s band becomes more successful, he’s around less, and Mia develops a desire to take her talents beyond Portland, to New York City’s Julliard, on the other side of the country.
"If I Stay" wants you to weep -- and you will. My issue is there should’ve been even more weeping, and less manipulation. But I suspect the majority of the audience, especially the pre-teen and teen boys and girls who’ve read the Gayle Forman bestselling novel on which the movie’s based, won’t really care -- nor will a few uneven performances sully their love for a movie about a girl whose soul may be saved by a cute boy with a guitar.