Actors Rescue Melodrama

If I Stay

An Illusion Review buy Joan Ellis


           
            If I Stay
is a tough call so letís look at the negatives first. On the page, it is a full blown melodrama, the kind that gives weepies a bad name. A happy family, a snow day, a car crash, ambulances, a hospital, grieving friends and relatives. It could easily be dismissed as a contrived tug at the emotions of an audience if it werenít for the lead actors.
            Mia (Chloe Grace Moretz) is the daughter of rock band parents who have retired from their band to raise their family. In an intriguing emotional curve, Mia has fallen in love with the cello and, with her parentsí encouragement, is applying to Julliard. During her final high school year she falls in love with Adam (Jamie Blackley), lead man in a rock group. Will she go 3000 miles east to Julliard while Adam breaks into the public eye in Portland?
            Early on, the terrible accident happens, Mia lies in a coma while her life, along with its dilemmas, plays out internally as her subconscious wanders the hospital corridors in a state of confusion as to whether to live or to die. Normally, those would be the elements of a conventional weepie. Not so here. Chloe Grace Moretz carries the movie beautifully with strong, subdued support from an unusually successful ensemble cast. Itís no easy task for a seventeen year old girl to convince us that classical music and the cello are the motivating force in her life. She does exactly that without a mite of overacting. If there is a tear to be shed, itís likely to be over Miaís love of her music rather than over the unfolding melodrama.
            Joshua Leonard and Merielle Enos are credible as Miaís parents, ex-rockers now the core of a happy, close, scatterbrained family. Jamie Blackleyís Adam is a restrained and consistent portrait of a rock musician who falls for the serious girl playing her cello in the practice room at school. As Mia, Chloe Grace Moretz never once overplays her view of a serious seventeen year old pulled in two directions by young love and her already deep root in classical music. She is thoroughly believable.
            So good are the two young actors in their roles that we wonder why there was any need for the accident, the deaths, or the drama. There was quite enough drama in the very human story of two gifted young musicians obviously headed for success but worried about what continental distance might do to their relationship. Since the movie is based on a Young Adult novel by Gayle Forman, the melodrama had to stay in. Itís a tribute to Moretz and Blackley that they hold our interest and win our affection, without letting the somewhat clumsy structural apparatus of the scripted tragedy turn us away. I canít imagine how either of them had the maturity to play it without exaggeration, but they did, and they save the movie.
 


Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Film Title : If I Stay
Word count : 496
Studio : Warner Bros.
Running time : 1:46
Rating : PG-13

 


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