MOVIE REVIEW: IF I STAY Weaves A Striking Tale Of Love And Loss

Imagine all the “hard” decisions you thought you’d have to make disappearing in one horrific moment, leaving you with one crucial choice: Life or death?

That’s the decision Mia Hall (Chloe Grace Moretz) faces after a casual drive with her family turns into a tragedy. Watching the outside world with her body lies in a comatose state, she must decide whether its better to die with her loved ones or living a shattered life that will never be whole again.

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Fans of Gayle Forman’s novel will be beyond thrilled with the adaptation. It’s every bit as sweet, powerful, and heart-wrenching as the book we love. Mia’s story is told beautifully on screen through a combination of interactions between her remaining loved ones at the hospital and flashbacks. The film does a great jump of going back and forth between the two set-ups without seeming choppy or confusing. Of Mia’s possible reasons to live from the film’s tagline– love, music, family, and friendship– the film skews heavily toward love and music, though family and friendship are clearly represented.

Chloe Grace Moretz is radiant as Mia, capturing her introversion and internal conflict with ease. Anyone who was a bit awkward or shy during their teen years will certainly appreciate her portrayal.

Jamie Blackley is a great counterpart as Adam, Mia’s love interest. Though both were solid in their individual performances, Chloe and Jamie balanced each other out with different strengths– her charm was in the quiet, everyday moments while he shined in the more intense scenes.

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The romance between the two will certainly leave fans swooning! There were a few spots where the script pushed the line a little too far past sentimentality into mushy territory, some of which involved lines from the book that just don’t translate as well on-screen. On the flip side, fans will be pleased to know that there were very few changes from book to screen and the few changes we noticed were smart ones, particularly with one intimate scene and the choice to draw out the feels when it comes to Mia’s loss.

The film did an excellent job integrating the music. We feel the power of the music in the book, but to actually hear it is a different animal. Though she’s clearly not playing every piece, Chloe Grace Moretz studied cello and handles it well, clearly capturing Mia’s passion for the instrument. Her audition scene is breath-taking. Adam’s band, whose name was wisely changed from Shooting Star to Willamette Stone, is more pop rock than punk or emocore, but very enjoyable all the same. There’s a clear progression as the band gets more popular, starting out raw and a little shaky and slowly getting more polished. Each of the four songs for which samples were previously released make their way into the film, along with snippets of a couple new tunes.

The film seamlessly showcases Mia’s tight-knit relationships with the few people she lets into her world. Liana Liberato is snarky and relatable as Mia’s best friend, Kim. Joshua Leonard and (especially) Mireille Enos are perfect as Mia’s ex-punk rocker, free-spirited parents who encourage her to grow into an unique being. Even Teddy Hall, portrayed by Jakob Davies, has one lovely, profound moment despite minimal screen time. But a special shout out goes to Stacy Keach, who plays Mia’s grandfather, for really getting the waterworks going in an absolute scene-stealing moment.

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While definitely built for a teen audience, IF I STAY is a story that will leave you with a greater appreciation of love and a rekindled sense of hope. Life is a series of choices, some good and some bad, but this story shows that all of them are worth it. You’ll feel it long after you leave the theater!

RATING: A-

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