17 year-old Mia Hall (Chloe Grace Moretz) appears to have everything that a girl could want. She has a wonderful, if somewhat goofy, father in former musician-turned-teacher Denny (Joshua Leonard). She has a loving mother, a travel agent named Kat (Mirelle Enos). She has an adorable little brother (Jakob Davies), a loyal best friend (Liana Liberato), and — best of all — she has an older boyfriend named Adam (Jamie Blackley), who is on the verge of rock stardom. Even better, Mia has a wonderful future ahead of her. A musical prodigy, Mia is cello player who is waiting to hear whether or not she’s been accepted to Julliard.
And then, one day on a snowy road, it all changes. There’s a car accident. Both Denny and Kat are killed. Mia’s brother is several injured. And Mia in a coma. While her friends and what remains of her family watch over her at the hospital, Mia has an out-of-body experience. She walks through the hallways of the hospital, she listens to her loved ones as they struggle to accept what has happened, and she remembers all of the days that came before the accident. She remembers first meeting Adam. She remembers falling in love with him. She remembers their fights and then she remembers her family and she realizes that she’s facing a future without any of them. Ultimately, Mia has to decide whether to wake up and stay or to die and perhaps be at peace.
Based on an excellent novel by Gayle Forman, If I Stay is a tear jerker in the best sense of the word. Yes, the film has been clearly designed to make you cry but what’s wrong with that? Sometimes, crying is the best thing that one can do and, much like The Fault In Our Stars, the film’s tears are earned. As directed by R.J. Cutler, the film strikes a deliberate and telling contrast between Mia’s lively memories and the stark coldness of the hospital through which she now finds herself wandering. Joshua Leonard and Mirelle Enos bring a lot of life to the roles of the doomed parents and Stacy Keach is great as Mia’s grandfather. (Try not to cry when he tells the comatose Mia that it’s okay to move on. I dare you!)
Finally, Chloe Grace Mortez gives a wonderful and soulful performance of Mia. Moretz is one of those young actresses who always seems to be both wise beyond her years and painfully fragile as well. If I Stay contains yet another strong performance from her, one that elevates the entire film. That said, I hope she gets to do a nice romantic comedy at some point in the future because, after all the trauma she’s acted out in everything from Kick-Ass to Texas Killing Fields to Carrie to If I Stay, she’s earned it!
As for If I Stay, it’s still playing at theaters even as I write this review. If you haven’t already, go see it.