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Susan Granger's review of 'If I Stay'

Published 4:44 pm, Friday, August 29, 2014
  • Our film critic, Susan Granger, reviews "If I Stay." Photo: Contributed Photo, Contributed / New Canaan News
    Our film critic, Susan Granger, reviews "If I Stay." Photo: Contributed Photo, Contributed

 

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It's curious that the current crop of teenage tragedies adapted from young adult fiction, like "The Fault in Our Stars" and now "If I Stay," so adeptly incorporates the essential question that sustains all cinematic suspense: Will the protagonist survive? And in this case, she must make the choice herself.

In Portland, Oregon, Mia (Chloe Grace Moretz) is a teenage rebel. A classical music nerd, she's passionate about playing the cello, idolizes Yo-Yo Ma and Beethoven and has her heart set on attending Julliard. That stuns her free-spirited parents (Mireille Enos, Joshua Leonard), former rock `n' rollers, and her younger brother (Jakob Davies).

But her super-cool boyfriend Adam (Jamie Blackley) understands, even though he fronts a rocker band. Then, one day, when a snowstorm blankets the landscape, there's a horrific automobile accident that decimates her family. Seriously injured, hovering between life and death, Mia must choose between returning to pick up the pieces of her shattered existence or simply letting it all go, slipping into the radiant light that beckons her.

"Isn't it amazing how life is one thing and then, in an instant, it becomes something else--

Scripted by Shauna Cross ("Whip It") from Gayle Forman's best-selling 2009 novel, it's directed by documentary filmmaker R.J. Cutler ("The September Issue"), making his motion picture debut.

In Cutler's adaptation, Mia is in a state of limbo; her dilemma evolves through a series of flashbacks that reveal not only her deep, abiding love for her family but also her anguished conflict between pursuing her musical ambition and her de-sire to be with the man she adores.

While Moretz ("Let Me In," "Carrie") wrestles with raw, soul-searching, chemistry spikes with hunky Jamie Blackley, it's Stacy Keach, as Mia's grandfather, who delivers the most memorable performance, delivering a subtly haunting hospital-bedside speech.

FYI: Alisa Weilerstein did

the cello playing, and her overcoming-adversity story is

also fascinating (www.opus3artists.com/artists/alisa-weilerstein)

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "If I Stay" is a poignant, sensitive 7 -- a tension-filled tearjerker that should satisfy its intended audience.