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Originally published August 21, 2014 at 12:12 AM | Page modified August 21, 2014 at 1:13 PM

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‘If I Stay’: Near-death tale lacks life

A movie review of “If I Stay,” a sappy retelling of Gayle Forman’s young-adult novel about a teen cellist (Chloë Grace Moretz) who experiences a terrible car accident with her family and wonders whether to live or die. It got two stars out of four.


Seattle Times movie critic

Movie Review ★★  

‘If I Stay,’ with Chloe Grace Moretz, Mireille Enos, Joshua Leonard, Jamie Blackley, Stacy Keach, Jakob Davies. Directed by R.J. Cutler, from a screenplay by Shauna Cross, based on the novel by Gayle Forman. 107 minutes. Rated PG-13 for thematic elements and some sexual material. Several theaters.

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In a summer that brought us a very good movie about a dying teenage girl (“The Fault in Our Stars”), it seems statistically unlikely that we might get another — and, indeed, we don’t. “If I Stay,” a sappy retelling of Gayle Forman’s young-adult novel, introduces us to Mia (Chloë Grace Moretz), an angelic-looking teen cellist who, early in the film, experiences a terrible car accident with her family. She then flits around through the rest of the film, wearing appropriate dead-girl pastels and a dazed expression, revisiting her life and wondering whether she should live or die.

Mia’s life, you see, is awesome: She’s got two relentlessly cool parents (Mireille Enos, Joshua Leonard) who encourage her to do whatever she wants; a cute little brother (Jakob Davies); a picture-perfect boyfriend named Adam (Jamie Blackley), whose band just signed a record deal; and far better hair than any of her friends. But when the accident wipes out Mom and Dad and maybe Brother, she’s got to weigh whether it’s worth sticking around for Adam, the cello and presumably the hair. This decision takes an awfully long time and requires many, many flashbacks, endless shots of Moretz looking pensive and even a last-minute deathbed song, at which point members of the audience may well be ready to switch places with Mia. (Well, I was.)

Moretz is, as always, a compelling presence; she’s got that gravelly voice that makes you wish someone would cast her in an atmospheric junior noir. But even she can’t manage much chemistry with the wooden Blackley, and Enos’ and Leonard’s characters feel precisely scripted rather than real. Ultimately, “If I Stay” is a just barely average teen weepie, enlivened by some pretty cello music but never coming to life.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or mmacdonald@seattletimes.com



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