If I Stay
Chloë Grace Moretz stars in this conceptually interesting but mishandled and mawkish drama
If I Stay finds a teenage girl plunged into existential limbo after a car accident, with her spirit self pondering whether the life that awaits her is worth fighting for. Director RJ Cutler (best known for documentary The September Issue) fashions his first narrative feature from somewhat maudlin material. Based on the bestseller from Gayle Forman, it positions a blossoming romance against an unfolding tragedy, gleaning tension from the deliberately disconcerting effect; in one narrative strand our protagonist is finally learning to live, while in another we may be watching her die.
While the premise is certainly interesting the execution is frequently poor. Chloë Grace Moretz stars as Mia Hall, a rather serious young cellist who's the surprising (ie fairly boring) spawn of adorable ex-punk parents Kat (Mireille Enos) and Denny (Joshua Leonard). Her genetic predisposition manifests itself in an attraction toward rising rocker Adam (Jamie Blackley – as blah as they come), before the car accident shatters her perfect existence.
The almost comically soft-focus aesthetic signposts from the outset that this will be tragedy-lite; misery delivered in careful, watered-down, TV movie-style doses, avoiding the kind of messy impactful emotion the dramatic events deserve. In the hours and days following the accident, Mia's consciousness drifts wanly about the hospital corridors, showing a slavish devotion to her own bedside at the expense of finding out the current status of her similarly critically ill family members – it's difficult not to find such self-obsession jarring.
Shauna Cross' screenplay swarms with clichés that consistently undermine the story's sentiments, and Moretz's performance swings between affecting and affected. In a movie where the title refers to the choice between the protagonist living and dying it's really not a great sign that you may find yourself willing her to go.
General release from Fri 29 Aug.