The box office has extracted buckets of young adults’ tears this year, and is being made more powerful by the offering, like the emotion-absorbing ooze from Ghostbusters II. Well gird your tear ducts; it’s time for another round. Based on Gayle Forman’s best-selling book, this latest entry is anchored by a typically elegant performance from Chloë Grace Moretz (Carrie, Kick-Ass) as shy, cello-worshipping Mia, who finds herself trapped in an out-of-body limbo after a car accident leaves her in a coma.
From here the narrative moves forwards and backwards in time, a device that gives plenty of room for exposition and detail – Mia’s discovery of the cello, friendship with best pal Kim (Liana Liberato), her unorthodox family, and meeting and falling for Adam (Jamie Blackly, And While We Were Here), an indie-rocker-on-the-rise whose dreamy intensity turns Mia’s world upside down with first love and all its symptoms. Blackly is refreshingly un-lame (let’s face it, earnest teen musicians in films are always embarrassing) and joins Nat Wolf, Miles Teller and Nicholas Braun in the growing trend for smart, mouthy Lloyd Dobler-style male leads in lieu of chests and cheekbones, which I for one welcome wholeheartedly.
Ultimately, it’s Moretz and Blackly’s likeability that draws the viewer’s empathy – without them the wheels might have fallen off this otherwise overly sentimental vehicle. If I Stay doesn’t rate as highly on the hanky-meter as The Fault In Our Stars but, goddammit, it’s trying.
‘If I Stay’ Movie Times