A film where the music is more moving than the performances, If I Stay is a mashed up romance that lacks emotion and conviction. Based on the bestselling novel by Gayle Forman, the story indeed poses an interesting scenario where we find lead character Mia (played by Hollywood’s rising young star Chloë Grace Moretz) torn between two polarised dreams, on one hand she has the option of fulfilling her true potential as a gifted cello player at renowned college Juilliard or on the other ends sits the love of her life, rock musician Adam. As if Mia’s problems weren’t enough add a tragic car accident to the mix that kills her family and leaves Mia comatose. Enter a supernatural twist: Mia’s spirit is able to wander freely and now it is her choice as to whether she lives or dies.
The film shifts awkwardly between long flashbacks of Mia’s life and her rocky love affair with Adam (pun intended) and cuts to shorter scenes of her spirit wandering the corridors of the hospital able to see and hear everything but unable to be seen or heard. After the emotional storm that was The Fault In Our Stars, Cutler’s adaptation does nowhere near enough to leave the audience with a similar feeling. However, it has to be said that Moretz and Blackley, who plays Adam, do well together on screen. Blackley thrives in playing the brooding and tortured Adam who in the end confesses that he will do anything if she stays and that Mia is his only family. Queue “Oooh” and “Aww” in the cinemas. Surprisingly it is Moretz who falls short in playing a convincing Mia. Great at being the shy, timid teenage girl who just wants to play her cello, she fails to deliver the emotion required when in her spirit state.
The music to some extent saves the film, it is the thread that binds the jagged plotline together. The most poignant scene is the one with the bonfire where Mia and Adam sit side by side and play together, a merging of the unlikeliest of instruments, the guitar and the cello. The moment where Mia realises she may be a solo player but it does not mean she is alone. Corny but not crass.
A fairly decent attempt by director R.J Cutler but this adaptation does very little in terms of evoking feeling. As Mia’s spirit walks in on Adam sat by her lifeless body the end feels nigh, happy ending you ask? If the need to know is pressing enough, it’s definitely worth one watch. But just the one.