It was only at the start of summer that The Fault In Our Stars hit our cinemas and took us on a emotional filled journey of teenage love and unavoidable tragedy. So is it too soon for another book to film tale of teenage woe? We think not and have utterly fallen for R. J Cutler’s If I Stay, which somehow manages to be beautifully heart warming, yet completely heartbreaking.
If I Stay is developed from the best selling young adult novel by Gayle Forman. The plot follows the protagonist Mia Hall, a shy high school cellist who is in love and has just auditioned for Julliard. All these things come to a sudden halt when a normal drive with her loving family turns into a major road accident. Mia wakes up to the wreckage and slowly realises that she is having an out of body experience. Whether or not she comes out of her coma is completely up to her, but the question is, has she anything left to live for?
There is no doubt that one of the main strengths of the film is Chloe Grace Moretz’s magnificently touching performance as Mia. This is the first time we’ve seen Moretz playing the part of a normal teenage girl, far from her roles in Kick Ass and Carrie. Her performance is natural, giving a completely authentic representation of a girl making her way through adolescence, whilst facing difficult situations and tough decisions. Moretz’s talent is unstoppable and this performance is definitely her final transition into more serious roles.
The film stays true to the book with a structure that cuts back and forth between the past and present. The use of flashbacks portray different aspects of Mia’s life up until this point in more detail. This technique works perfectly to get us as an audience to begin to learn and understand her strong connections with music, family and relationships. The editing of the film is beautiful and is kept clean with simple framing. The somewhat brisk pace of the present day scenes keep you guessing as to what will happen next. R. J Cutler’s talent is undeniable as the film ends at such an exact moment that you will be shocked the film is over.
The soundtrack also matches the film flawlessly, with a great mix of classical pieces, rock, and pure calming tracks like Tom Odell’s Heal, which compliment the scenes subtly rather than distracting you from the visuals.
The film produces an ideal balance of different emotions, in a manner which is natural and in no way forced. You will find yourself laughing at things such as her familiar relationship with her best friend, getting butterflies at her scenes with Adam, and, of course, crying as Mia faces the unimaginable with her family.
Some of the most poignant points of the film include the unfolding of Mia’s first experiences of love with Adam, played by Adam Blackley, who also gives an excellent performance. The chemistry between Moretz and Blackley is believable and a lot more realistic than many other portrayals of teenage love in recent films. Together they portray the happiness and struggles of young love, in particular dealing with the strain of long distance relationships which is very prevalent within young couples of modern day society.
The overall casting of If I Stay felt extremely on point. Mireille Enos and Joshua Leonard are fantastic in their roles as Mia’s laidback ex rocker parents Kat & Denny. They play the supportive, fun, but serious-when-they-have-to-be parents – Enos especially is believable as Mia’s mother in the way she conveys emotion towards Moretz. The moments with her Gramps played by celebrated actor Stacey Keach are also exceptionally moving. Keach portrays a man of few words whose love and admiration for his granddaughter, Mia, has inspired him to be more open with his emotions.
If I Stay truly is definitely a film for everyone as it has a way of making you relate to your own experiences and realise what the most important things in life actually are. If you love a good drama, packed with lots of emotion and life lessons, this film is for you – just make sure you have some tissues at the ready!
If I Stay is out now on DVD and Blu-Ray via 20th Century Fox.
Click here to see Chloë Grace Moretz and Jamie Blackley discuss the importance of music in the film.