Film Review: If I Stay

Written by Megan LaBruna

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Could you live on if your loved ones passed away? Would you choose to go with them and leave behind the life ahead of you? That’s the choice Mia (Chloe Grace Moretz) is faced with when a sudden car accident claims her entire family and leaves her in a coma.

Based on the novel by Gayle Foreman; If I Stay centers around Mia Hall, a shy teenager and incredibly talented cellist who considers herself to be the outcast of her family. The Hall family consists of Mia’s creative mother, Kat (Mireille Enos), musically inclined father, Denny (Joshua Leonard), and all-around awesome little brother, Teddy (Jakob Davies). They’re outgoing and daring, loving and kind and according to Mia, had hoped she would grow up to be a rocker chick, but had their hopes dashed when she instead fell in love with the cello at a young age.

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I have to admit; I read half of the book and decided to not finish it prior to watching the movie, because I didn’t want to know the ending going in. But I can say her family is spot on to the characters described in the book. They truly feel like a family, one that is easy going and loving, sincere and serious when needed and share many great memories. There are obvious scenes that are changed from the book to the film, but I don’t think they take anything away from the essence of their family dynamic.

One of the strongest connections I believe for Mia, both in the book and in the movie is the connection to her grandfather (in the film played by Stacy Keach). I say this because, in both cases, I found myself tearing up when he tells her that while he wants her to fight, he understands if she wants to let go. He shares with her how her father gave up his own band to become a teacher so he could provide Mia with the access to more tutoring and her own cello after hearing her practicing every night for the pure joy of the music, not because she was getting anything from it. Up to that point, Mia had always believed her father had decided to grow up when her younger brother was born. This coupled with many other flashbacks such their Sunday dinners, heartfelt conversations with her mother and the day Mia was given her first cello are reasons she can’t bear the thought of living without her family.

On the other hand there’s Kim (Liana Liberato), Mia’s best friend since middle school and Adam (Jamie Blackley), her first love. Through flashbacks the audience can see how Mia and Adam met and their relationship budded, flourished and then started to fall apart. Their original plans to go to college together and stay in Oregon are quickly changed and the usual teenage fighting begins. With Adam’s band growing more successful everyday and Mia being accepted to audition for Julliard, the pair grows further apart. At the time of the accident they hadn’t talked in a month or so, but Adam skips a huge break in his career opening up for The Shins to be by Mia’s side. SPOILER ALERT: he even breaks into her house to find the letter from Julliard, to which he informs a comatose Mia that she has been accepted.

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While Kim is not as much a major player in the movie as she is in the book, I’m glad they managed to squeeze in a few moments where the audience can see the dynamics of their friendship. Adam however, based on the half of the book that I read, is well cast. It is believable that high school girls would swoon over him and that he would be the type of person that is drawn to Mia because of their shared love of music and because he’s not caught up in the usual logistics of the high school dating scene. He’s also convincing when despite not having talked for a few months he appears as if his world has crashed down around him seeing Mia unresponsive in the hospital bed. It’s only fitting that he would manage to somewhat connect with her by playing classical music through headphones for her to hear while in a coma. And, if there is any plus side to having one foot in the grave, Mia finally gets Adam to write a song for her. Will the magnetic pull of music, the promise of a bright future at Julliard, and the love of Adam, her grandparents and friends be enough to pull Mia out of her coma? Or will she give into her defeat for a chance to move on and join her mother, father and brother who have always been there to support her and make her smile? You’ll have to watch If I Stay to find out…or you can read the book to find.

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