Movie Reviews & Interviews from Washington

‘If I Stay’ Review: Starring Chloe Grace Moretz, Jamie Blackley & Mireille Enos

Gayle Forman’s popular Young Adult novel “If I Stay” is a captivating story about the beauty of life, death and love, and focuses on 16-year-old Mia who experiences it all after a tragic accident happens to her family. There is not a better and more poised young actress than Chloe Grace Moretz (2013’s Carrie and Kick-Ass 2) to take on the role of Mia. Moretz is mature and talented well beyond her years and I can only imagine how thrilled Forman was when she accepted the part of the character she created.

When anyone does a novel to film adaptation, there’s always some scenes that are left out and some that don’t necessarily play as well on screen as they would in a book. But director R.J. Cutler’s film is moving and captures the essence of Forman’s book, even if some of the scenes played better in my head as I was reading the novel.

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Mia is a shy, but typical high school senior with a passion for classical music. She’s been an avid cellist since she was young and hopes to make music into a career with the first step of getting accepting into Julliard for the fall. Mia is part of a tight-knit family, which includes her father Denny (Joshua Leonard), who gave up his band to start a family, her mother Kat (Mireille Enos) and little brother Teddy (Jakob Davies). On a snowy day as the family drives to the grand parents house for dinner, a horrific car accident happens, leaving Mia’s family dead and in critical condition. But Mia wakes up, discovering that she is in between life and death and its up to her to decide her fate.

Moretz gives it her all as the young cellist who’s fallen in love with slightly older rocker musician Adam (Jamie Blackley), but also as a teenager who is in the in-between of life and death when she discovers that her family has died. Moretz and Blackley have wonderful chemistry as Mia and Adam and what’s great about their relationship is that the author writes it with a lot of ups and downs to make it feel natural. There is one scene in particular where Mia and Adam get into an argument after one of his shows and it’s so beautifully acted and raw.


Because of the PG-13 rating of the movie, that leaves less for the horrific car crash scene and much to my disappointment, a lot of that was hidden. If I Stay is a heartbreaking story and it would’ve made for a better set up Cutler showed more of the crash scene, as Forman described it in the novel. The best and most gut-wrenching scene in the movie is involves Mia’s Grandfather, played by Stacy Keach, and Moretz. Mia is still in her coma and her Gramps takes her hand, asking her to stay, but tearfully says he understands if she wants to go, too. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house during that scene.

Chloe Grace Moretz elevates this film adaptation and is the perfect young actress to play shy, talented and pained Mia. Though some of the scenes may not have translated as well on screen, Moretz delivers a memorable performance, while Cutler doesn’t disappoint fans of the book.

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