|IF I STAY
|22 August 2014|
|Gayle Forman (novel)|
Rated PG-13 for thematic elements and some sexual material
— 4 out of 5 stars
As similar as they are, “If I Stay” and “The Fault In Our Stars” are worlds apart. Of course they are both based of widely popular young adult novels, star two up-and-coming young actresses, and contain some life and death subject matter, but upon a closer look, one of these films rises above the other. “If I Stay” resonated more with me, striking all the right chords. The bar was even set higher for “If I Stay,” coming off the best trailer of the year, which was helped immensely by the song “Say Something” by A Great Big World. Leaving me an emotional wreck following just the trailer, I knew the film itself had a higher hill to climb. However, “If I Stay” accomplishes its goal in evoking strong emotional responses from the audience, while “The Fault In Our Stars” left me the only dry eye in a sea of crying young ladies.
Take this as a spoiler if you will, but the premise of “If I Stay” sees young cellist Mia Hall (Chloe Grace Moretz) involved in a car accident with her entire family. Hanging on between death and life, Mia must decide whether to wake herself up and continue her life, or forego the emotional baggage to come and move on to the next life. Whether its family members like her grandfather, played heartbreakingly by Stacy Keach, telling her its all right to let go in the emotional highlight of the film, or whether its her first real love, Adam (Jamie Blackley) and all their memories together keeping Mia from giving up, the decision is obviously not an easy one. And with blow after blow in the hospital, the scale eventually becomes completely unbalanced. Playing up the innocence of her character, Chloe Grace Moretz earns the emotional wherewithal needed for the audience to invest in the heart-wrenching situations. And even though this is based on Gayle Forman’s young adult novel, there is never any telling whether a happy ending can even exist in this vividly captured world.
Matching the popular music soundtrack of “The Fault In Our Stars,” the reason “If I Stay” impacts more is by weaving music into the narrative. Mia is a cellist and Adam is an aspiring rock star and music is more or less their life. That fact alone helps connect with the characters. This also draws out one of the huge flaws with “The Fault In Our Stars” in that the only thing Hazel and Gus are aspiring to be is alive for another day, living with cancer. For me, it was so hard to make a connection with them, being constantly reminded of their cancer, while Mia and Adam’s relationship was left much more open, letting us get to know them without constantly being reminded that Mia is in the throws of death. Also, Chloe and Jamie have so much more chemistry on screen than Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort, with Jamie representing a much more relatable Prince Charming character. One would have imagined the film about teens dealing with love and cancer would have beat out the film about a young woman stuck in a sort of purgatory of memories and decisions, but “If I Stay” is across the board the better film. The only thing that would have made it perfect is if it would have actually contained the song “Say Something” that got me so invested in seeing the film in the first place.