If I Stay (PG-13)

Drama 106 min. August 22, 2014
By Stephanie Zacharek
Given the dearth of dramas about real-life, grown-up problems, especially in summertime, movies adapted from young-adult novels are about the best we can hope for. Even when they're not great, they fill a need, for teenagers and grown-ups alike. If you're in the mood for a story about humans who are a little less Expendable, you could do worse than spend an air-conditioned afternoon watching If I Stay. Chloë Grace Moretz plays Mia, a teenage rebel, though not the sort you'd expect: She's a disciplined cellist with dreams of attending Juilliard.

The cutest and coolest guy in her school, aspiring rock guitarist Adam (Jamie Blackley), spies her practicing alone in a classroom one day, and zing go the strings of his heart. They begin dating but tragedy strikes: Mia and her family suffer a serious car accident, one that puts her in a coma. While flesh-and-blood Mia lies in a hospital bed, right at the crossroads of life and death, out-of-body Mia drifts around listlessly, reflecting on her recent past and asking herself the same question The Clash once posited: Should I stay or should I go? It's the ultimate teenage fantasy, an extension of the "You'd be sorry if I died!" retort so beloved by melodramatic 15-year-olds everywhere. At a certain point, If I Stay takes a maudlin turn and just keeps going. But Moretz is strong enough to carry it. She makes out-of-body Mia's soul-searching wholly believable: There's a vulnerable softness to her eyes that suggests she really is thinking and feeling all the time, suspended in that gel of emotional turmoil we remember as teenagerhood.
R.J. Cutler Chloe Grace Moretz, Mireille Enos, Liana Liberato, Lauren Lee Smith, Jamie Blackley, Aliyah O'Brien, Joshua Leonard Shauna Cross Alison Greenspan, Denise DiNovi, Gayle Forman, Brad Van Arragon ARRAY(0x1d3d300)

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