IF I STAY. Starring Chloe Grace Moretz, Mireille Enos, Jamie Blackley, Joshua Leonard, Liana Liberato, Stacy Keech, Gabrielle Rose, Lauren Lee Smith. Directed by R.J.Cutler. Rated M (Mature Themes). 107 minutes.
What is it about physical and mental illness that has attracted a number of up-and-coming actresses for their starring roles, Dakota Fanning dying in Now is Good , Shailene Woodley having to carry around her oxygen cylinder in The Fault in our Stars, Jennifer Lawrence mentally disturbed in her Oscar-winning role in Silver Linings Playbook, and now Chloe Grace Moretz in a car accident in If I Stay. Come to think of it, they have all been attracted by the heroics of comic-book worlds, Chloe Grace Moretz in the two Kick Ass films, Dakota Fanning as a vampire in the Breaking Dawn series, Shailene in Woodley so physically fit in Divergent, let alone Jennifer Lawrence in the Hunger Games series. Perhaps that means they are comfortable in vigorous life as well as in sadness, illness and death.
This film is based on a popular Young Adult novel. Chloe Grace Moretz is Mia, a teenager with loving parents and with a younger brother. She is a cello player, devoting hours to her practice, playing with a professional group and ambitions for the future at Juilliard. It is as snow day and so no school. Her parents suggest an outing for the whole family, but suddenly there is a deadly accident on the road…
It is not giving anything away, one only has to look at the title, to appreciate that while it seems that Mia is fatally injured, but up she gets from lying on the highway, wanders around taking stock of the situation, grief at her parents’ deaths, concerned about her brother’s injuries, and watching herself being put on the stretcher, into the ambulance and taken to hospital. So, this is a very extended near-death experience for her. She can see and hear everything. No one can see or hear her.
Into this scenario of Mia watching at the hospital, are inserted quite a number of flashbacks, rather randomly in fact, which fill out her story, final review of life, as a little girl, as a teenager, her seeming shyness and being pushed by a cousin, Kim, (Liana Liberato), encountering a musician, leader of the band, Adam (Jamie Blackly), who takes notice of her, and the two become an item, even a couple. But there has been a clash before the accident, Adam going on tour with his band and their great success and possibility for records, Mia and her application for the scholarship in music at Juilliard in New York.
Her grandparents, extended family and friends visit the hospital urging her to live. At first, Adam is not permitted into her room, but later does come and sings to her. The moment of truth will come and whether she opts to leave die or to come back to life is the dramatic dynamic of the plot.
Chloe Grace Marantz has shown great versatility in performances, not only in Kick Ass, but in the remake of Carrie and in the remake of the Swedish vampire film, Let Me In. She clearly has a strong future before her.
This is a film for the young adult audience, especially for young females, but with the romantic subplot and the pleasing performance, young males may not be unhappy to see it as well. Parents might take something of a benign attitude towards the story, and Mia’s very close relationship with Adam, but, on the whole, it is not their kind of film.
Fr Peter Malone MSC is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.
Out 20th September 2014.