by Jeff Niesel
Based on Gayle Forman’s novel of the same name, If I Stay, a new drama starring Chloe Grace Moretz, makes the most of its unique structure but can't overcome its weaknesses as a melodramatic love story. At the start of the film, which opens areawide today, Mia Hall (Moretz), a high school senior who’s anxiously awaiting news regarding her application to Juilliard, gets in a horrible car accident. As a result, she ends up in a coma. The film then becomes a series of a flashback as Mia recounts her childhood and the story of how she fell in love with some slacker dude who actually turned out to be an okay guy.
In those flashbacks, we learn that her parents (Mireille Enos and Joshua Leonard) were punk rockers who changed their lives (for the better) after she was born. And even though they didn’t quite understand her infatuation with classical music, they encouraged her and her young brother Teddy (Jakob Davies) to pursue their dreams. Many of the flashbacks focus on Mia’s relationship with Adam, one of the most popular guys at her high school. He plays in a rock band and though he falls hard for her at first, when she tells him she might be moving away to college, he doesn’t take the news very well. Their on-again, off-again relationship is rather tumultuous. It’s also a realistic portrayal of what it’s like to be a teenager.
Predictably enough, the film’s suspense surrounds the coma. Mia, who wanders the hospital halls as if she’s come kind of ghost, makes it clear that she doesn’t see much reason to snap out of it (as if she even could). But she listens to what people say to her and begins to have a change of heart, especially when her grandfather (Stacy Keach) tells her about all the things her parents did to ensure she’d have the chance at going to a good college. Though the role is certainly a departure for Moretz, she’s not entirely up to the task her. Much like Kristen Stewart, she regularly fawns and frowns — and that’s not a compliment. Ultimately, the movie comes off as the kind of melodramatic soap opera-like flick you might see on a channel like Lifetime.