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'If I Stay' aims for the stars

If I Stay

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If I Stay (2014), the latest feature to be adapted from a young adult novel, landed in theaters last week. The movie stars Chloë Grace Moretz as Mia, the lead protagonist. Mia is the only one to survive a brutal car accident that takes the lives of her mother (Mirielle Enos), father (Joshua Leonard), and brother (Jakob Davies). However, she does not escape unscathed. She suffers critical injuries and it is up to her whether she wants to let go or come back to a world without her family. Waiting for her is Adam (Jamie Blackley), Mia’s love interest, and a potential acceptance to Julliard to play the cello. This film arrives on the heels of The Fault in Our Stars (2014), another young adult adaptation that was extremely successful a few months prior. Though there are many similarities between each film, If I Stay fails to shine as brightly.

In both movies, there is a lack authenticity in the family unit, meaning that the relationship between parents and child is not convincing. The Fault in Our Stars is able to get away with this, because the real drama of the story is between Hazel Grace (Shailene Woodley) and Gus (Ansel Elgort). Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort do a courageous and wonderful job at breathing life into their characters. As a result, the movie is incredibly touching. The drama in If I Stay, on the other hand, has to be driven by the fact that Mia is so intensely in love with her family that the thought of living without them is unbearable. She also must be just as insanely in love with Adam and playing the cello, so a conflict is created. Though the later is well developed, the former is not.

Part of the problem comes from the structure of the movie. The car accident happens in the beginning of the film. Once Mia is physically unconscious and wandering around the hospital out-of-body, the audience gets flashbacks of her life that do not match up well with the present circumstances. For instance, one second Mia finds out someone has died, the next second is a scene of Mia gallivanting around with Adam. This editing slashes the full weight of these emotional scenes in half. As a result, the struggle between slipping away and waking up is not as strong. The ending is also a bit abrupt, taking away the emotional release from the audience of seeing the other characters’ reactions. All in all, the effort is applauded and the film certainly showcases Jamie Blackley and Liana Liberato as upcoming talents to keep an eye on.