"If I Stay" will probably make you cry, but you won't be happy about it. The film, based on Gayle Forman's bestselling YA novel by the same name, hits theaters on Friday with some decent hype. Billed as "the next 'The Fault In Our Stars,'" "nothing like 'Fault In Our Stars,'" and "'Fault In Our Stars' lite," "If I Stay" has a lot to live up to in book fans' eyes and at the box office.
The film portrays a love story on the decline: Mia (Chloe Grace Moretz) loves the cello and Adam (Jamie Blackley) loves the guitar. They're both on the brink of stardom, she with an audition at Juilliard and he with a rock band making waves in the Pacific Northwest. But then a terrible car accident threatens Mia's life. She loses her whole family and the film is told from her consciousness, through flashbacks of falling in love and growing up with "cool rocker" parents. She must decide if she will stay alive or die.
Unfortunately, due to clunky dialogue and subpar performances from its stars, much of "If I Stay" is unintentionally corny and face palm-worthy. The first time they speak, Adam tells Mia she "can't hide" from him because "he sees her." "Being with Adam was like learning to fly," Mia narrates. At a few different points, a literal white light pulls Mia from life.
Fans of the book will see hints of the beloved narrative come to life, but some of the weaker scenes are more forgivable on the page. When Mia and Adam have sex for the first time, they compare it to making music together. When reading, it's easy to brush off the over-the-top dialogue as a sweet relief for inexperienced Mia -- she even grabs her cello bow to help her out. On the screen, it's a cheese-fest.
But, if you're a sappy nerd (no judgement!), you will cry, because "If I Stay" is still really, really sad. The storytelling may beat you over the head with just how unbearable it is to lose the ones you love, but some moments hold. Here are all the times you may (hate)-cry while watching "If I Stay." (Spoilers ahead, but you know that by now.)
When Mia's father dies.
Book readers will remember that Mia's father, Denny Hall, dies very early in the story. But in the movie, Denny (Joshua Leonard) is perceived to make it out okay at first. After he returns from surgery and ghost-Mia overhears the doctors break the news, the camera shows EMTs zipping her mom, Kat Hall (Mireille Enos), into a body bag at the scene of the accident. Both her parents are dead and she will wake up an orphan. Mia's grandparents then tell Denny and Kat's best friends, and a montage of the family's hit-you-over-the-head-hip life in Portland plays. Cue tears.
When Mia's best friend and Adam have a heart-to-heart on the hospital roof.
Kim (Liana Liberato) is Mia's only friend before Adam comes into her life. In the book, Kim and Adam don't really get along. They come together to support Mia and that's about it. In this scene in the book, Mia is moved watching them take care of each other. Though their lack of relationship is never played out in the movie, the moment is still one of friendship, and thus, a tearjerker.
When Mia's mom comforts her after she and Adam break up.
In a flashback moment, Mia and Adam break up at a New Year's Eve party. They realize their music is pulling them in different directions. She's going to be a famous cellist in New York and he will be a rock star on the West Coast. Losing each other is inevitable. Mia comes home in the morning and her parents are drinking mimosas, playing cool mom and dad with their friends, but her mother shoos everyone out of the kitchen after seeing Mia in distress. She gives really good mom advice -- "True love's a bitch" -- and since you already know Kat is dead, this scene sucks. Waterworks.
When Gramps tells Mia it's okay to die.
Mia's grandpa, Gramps (Stacy Keach), talks to Mia while she's in a coma and tells her she can let go if the pain is too much. Her family is gone and there's nothing he can do about it. "Sacrifice, that's what we do for the people we love," he says. Mia says "Thank you," and it's implied that she will depart.
When Kim talks to comatose Mia.
This scene made it clear Liberato should have had more to do. Her friendship with Mia runs deep in the book, but we see so little of that on-screen. When she takes Mia's hand to tell her she still has a family, it's a deep stab.
"If I Stay" opens in theaters on Friday.
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