'If I Stay' review: Chloe Grace Moretz's lacklustre teen drama disappoints

Chloe Grace Moretz in If I Stay. (Courtesy)

Chloe Grace Moretz in If I Stay. (Courtesy)

Rating

2 Stars2/5

Liz Braun, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:02 PM ET

Annoying teen angst is the focus of If I Stay, a film version of the best-selling young adult novel by Gayle Forman.

The drama stars Chloe Grace Moretz as Mia, an aspiring cellist and high school senior. Mia has super-groovy and entirely unbelievable rocker parents (Mireille Enos and Joshua Leonard), a dear little brother and a musician boyfriend, Adam (Jamie Blackley).

Mia narrates the beginning of her story. Not long after she's filled in the basic details of her family scene, everything changes; a terrible car accident leaves Mia in a coma, hovering between life and death. Her family is shattered, and Mia struggles to determine if she should give up or go on, knowing that if she survives things will never be the same.

That set-up allows If I Stay to go back and forth in time as Mia considers her existence thus far. She moves through the past like an observant ghost; meanwhile, in present time, various people sit by her hospital bed and urge her to fight for her life. Those hospital scenes are oddly colourless and devoid of energy.

In flashback, we see the relationship develop between Mia and Adam. They go to school together. He's a rocker hoping for a recording contract. She's applied to Juilliard. He's a cool guy. She's a bit of a nerd. Their love story is the centre of the tale, and a dull and unlikely love story it is. If I Stay is plagued by badly-drawn characters; Adam is never more than two-dimensional and as Mia, Moretz plays a mopey, foot-dragging little wallflower — and a cello player?

That whirring sound you hear is Jacqueline du Pre spinning in her grave.

If I Stay is a film that gives the same dramatic weight to a teen tiff as it gives to a tragic death — it's got no highs or lows, this tale. Every now and then something bad happens, as if to goose the audience emotionally, but it doesn't work. An hour into this thing and we were desperate to leave; at one point, the poor little heroine cries, "I want this to be over!" and — yeah, ditto.

If I Stay turns out to be such an endurance test for an audience that it may be tough for anyone to care whether Mia pegs it in the end or not. By 'anyone' we of course exclude the target audience, those many teen fans of the book and of Moretz who will clutch their kleenex and no doubt love every frame of this lacklustre movie.

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