Friday, January 2, 2015

Movie Review: If I Stay

If I Stay is the movie adaptation of Gayle Forman's popular YA novel of the same name. If I Stay is about a girl, Mia Hall, who loses her entire family in a car accident. Caught between life and death, Mia sees what is happening beginning directly after the accident, through her time in the hospital and up to the time where she must make a decision to die or return to the living, knowing she is an orphan.

In the movie, Mia in her in-between state wanders the halls of the hospital listening to her grandparents, her friends, doctors and nurses and her boyfriend, Adam Wilde, as they struggle to cope with the tragedy. She learns about her parents death and eventually the death of her little brother, Teddy.

Through flashbacks we watch as Mia and Adam meet and their unlikely friendship develops into tempestuous love affair.  They first met when Adam saw her playing cello in the band room at school. Adam is an older guy who is the lead singer in his band while Mia is a classical cellist.

In Mia's senior year, the two begin to be pulled apart by life's circumstances. After Adam's band is signed to a label and begins to tour, Mia wonders if there will be room in his life for her. Her grandfather suggests that she audition for Julliard, that she is good enough to get in and at first Mia rejects this idea. But gradually she decides to apply to Julliard - a decision she does not tell Adam about. When she is selected for an audition in San Francisco she decides to tell Adam when he returns from tour. He is furious with her for applying and not telling him and as Adam sets off on another tour they part on angry terms. Although they love one another, it seems that if they are to stay together one must sacrifice their music for the other.

Mia is accompanied by her grandfather to her audition in San Francisco where she plays brilliantly. All that remains is to wait now for the adjudicators decision. When Mia meets Adam again, she tells him that there is a good possibility of her gaining admission to Julliard and that if she does, she will go. This leads to them to break up.

Chloe Grace Moretz stars as Mia Hall and Jamie Blackley as Adam Wilde. Moretz gives a solid performance as the dying Mia who must decide to live or die. At first Mia doesn't understand what it happening until she sees herself lying on a stretcher and realizes that she is having an out-of-body experience. Moretz manages to convey the shock and isolation Mia feels when she realizes what is happening. Because she cannot talk to any of the characters in the movie, Mia often narrates what is happening. Through her narration we experience her frustration and loneliness, and the fear that she experiences over her situation.

The flashbacks are very well done, filling in the back story of Mia's life with scenes from her family and her relationship with Adam. We learn that Mia's parents, Denny and Kat, were once rockers who decided to trade in their spontaneous lifestyle for one more favourable to raising a child. Her father quit his band and got a regular job. It is the scenes of a warm and close family life that make the viewer realize just how much Mia has lost and how she might not want to live. Unlike many parents in YA novels, Mia's are concerned, happy and even a bit funky. They are involved with their children and they care. Mia also has a special relationship with her Gramps who encourages her to pursue her music more seriously and who believes in her abilities. The scene where Mia is visited by Gramps played by Stacey Keach, is one of the most touching moments in the movie. Mia's grandpa tells her that he loves her but that if she wants to go it is fine.

Mia's decision is a difficult one. After hearing her Gramps give her permission to die, Mia decides she does not want to live. It is when Adam plays cello music through a set of headphones and tells her that she has been accepted by Julliard, that Mia realizes she does have something to live for. It's not an easy decision - "dying is easy. Living is hard." Viewers may not realize that Moretz cannot play the cello but the young actress does an excellent job on screen portraying a classical cellist.

I was disappointed with Jamie Blackley as Adam Wilde. His performance seems uninspired and his connection with Mia doesn't feel romantic or special in any way. He tells her with words that he loves her but his facial expressions and body language do not convey that love and the chemistry is only barely there.

Directed by R.J. Cutler directed If I Stay is romantic drama that for the most part will leave viewers tearful at the end and wanting more. I am hopeful that the sequel to If I Stay, which is titled Where She Went will also be adapted for cinema. But if it isn't, read the book to find out what happens to Mia and Adam.

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