Well the truth is there’s no reason to stay if you’ve seen the trailer.
“If I Stay” is the latest Young Adult novel to make the transition to the big screen. This one stars Chloe Grace Moretz as a young woman whose soul has to decide whether or not to live or die after a tragic car accident, and how that might affect the others she would leave behind. Which of course include a dreamy and passionate rock star boyfriend, whose love may just be the only thing to guide her through. All of which, and more, you can know just by sitting through the trailer. Seriously, and I know this is an aside, but the trailer gave away major emotional plot points which may not seem like a big deal, except in a movie like this building the suspense of that emotional development is crucial. OK, semi annual trailer rant over, lets take a look at the movie itself.
There are certainly some things that work here. For one the acting, for the most part, is on point. Chloe Grace Moretz is a wonderful actress and she’s got a lot of meat to chew through on this one. There are also some nice performances surrounding her including Stacey Keach, who may just have the best scene in the movie as her Grandpa. To be honest I didn’t find myself emotionally connecting to much of of this film, for reasons I will explain shortly, but his conversation with his dying grandchild locked me in and made me care. I also thought the writing was just clever enough to add a bit of lightness and fun amidst the obviously heavier subject matter. Especially as it relates to the relationship between our wandering soul and her sensitive but rebellious boyfriend. As cliche as the young adult fiction romance is by this point, I found their chemistry sweet enough that I was willing to buy in to it by the end of the movie.
Of course, by then it may be too late. And I just don’t mean for our dying heroine. I mean for our emotional investment. The movie chooses to present the story in a non-linear fashion, well, really more of a dual linear fashion, and even though it isn’t really confusing it puts certain events so early in the movie that we haven’t really had enough time to care about the consequences of those events yet. Its as if our hearts are supposed to be invested before our head’s really know what’s going on and the overall effect is that it short circuits the building of emotion. I was also distracted by how over produced the “live music” sounded. It may seem like a small thing, but music is a large part of this story and when the boyfriend’s rock show sounds like it’s coming out of a studio rather than a live venue it’s an immediate reminder that we are in a movie not the real world. But the worst thing for me had to be the constant voice over. If I wanted to listen to the audiobook I would have hit up audible. I’m sitting in a movie theater, use the visuals to tell me when at all possible.
At the end of the day, “If I stay” is a well acted and moving story story told in an interesting way. Unfortunately, because because of those storytelling choices and some really annoying voice over the emotion is too short circuited to reach beyond a C+