Dir: R J Cutler. US. 2014. 103mins
Directed in impressive style by documentary maker R J Cutler, young adult book adaptation If I Stay is a deft and nicely packaged mix of romance, music and tragedy. It will probably appeal more to the female end of the young adult audience spectrum but, with Chloë Grace Moretz starring, it could work very well for that demographic.
Making his narrative feature debut, Cutler (known for his TV work and feature documentary The September Issue) eventually finds a tone and pace that gives the film more emotional heft.
Though young adult adaptations have been inconsistent at the box office lately, this one - opening in the US on August 22 through worldwide distributor Warner - should appeal to the same crowd that made The Fault In Our Stars a hit earlier this summer. And Moretz’s growing fame, most recently boosted by last year’s Carrie remake, will be a particular asset in international markets, where the book’s fan base may be smaller.
In the story based on Gayle Forman’s bestselling 2009 novel of the same name, Moretz (also known for the Kick-Ass films) plays Mia, an earnest, cello-playing teen with hopes of a career in classical music and a serious boyfriend, Adam (played by UK up-and-comer Jamie Blackley, from Snow White And The Huntsman), who is a budding rock star. Soon after Mia auditions for the famed Juilliard music school, however, she and her family are involved in a car crash that leaves Mia in a coma, her younger brother severely injured and her mother and father (a former punk rocker himself) close to death.
Inter-cutting the aftermath of the crash with scenes of Mia’s family life, musical career and up-and-down relationship with Adam, the film has a ‘spirit Mia’ watching events in the hospital but remaining invisible to visiting friends and relations (including a grandpa played by Stacy Keach).
Early flashback scenes veer close to sticky sentiment and bland life lessons. But, making his narrative feature debut, Cutler (known for his TV work and feature documentary The September Issue) eventually finds a tone and pace that gives the film more emotional heft.
Cinematographer John de Borman creates an attractive autumnal look and the soundtrack makes excellent use of well-known but not over-familiar music from both the classical repertoire and the seventies and eighties rock catalogue.
Production companies: New Line Cinema, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures
Worldwide distribution: Warner Bros Pictures/Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures
Producer: Alison Greenspan
Executive producers: Denise Di Novi, Gayle Forman, Brad Van Arragon
Screenplay: Shauna Cross
Cinematography: John de Borman
Production designer: Brent Thomas
Editor: Keith Henderson
Costume designer: Monique Prudhomme
Music: Heitor Pereira
Main cast: Chloë Grace Moretz, Mireille Enos, Joshua Leonard, Jamie Blackley, Stacy Keach