Mia Hall (Chloë Grace Moretz) thought the hardest decision she would ever face would be whether to pursue her musical dreams at Juilliard or follow a different path to be with the love of her life, Adam (Jamie Blackley). But what should have been a carefree family drive changes everything in an instant, and now her own life hangs in the balance. Caught between life and death for one revealing day, Mia has only one decision left, which will not only decide her future but her ultimate fate.
When is the ongoing studio trend of making awful YA adaptations going to stop? As we've seen from such flops as the second 'Percy Jackson' movie and 'Mortal Instruments' (which is somehow getting a sequel), people aren't sucking them up like they did back in the 'Twilight' days. Very few YA adaptations are actually worthwhile, but we've become so inundated with them that we can't distinguish the 'Divergent's (bad) from the 'Hunger Games' (good). 'Beautiful Creatures' was actually a decent one, yet it flopped harder than them all. 'If I Stay' can be chocked up with the worst of them, yet it earned more than four times its budget back at the box office.
Chloe Grace Moretz ('Let Me In', 'Kick-Ass') stars as Mia, the high school-age daughter of two former Portland punk rockers that were forced to grow up when they became parents. According to the movie, punk rockers became modern-day hipsters that double as awful parents. Instead of teaching their kids to not drink and do drugs, Mia's parents simply teach her to be wise about it. For them, it's more important that their children know the exact year that Iggy Pop's music went downhill than the consequences of teenage drinking and sex. From the opening scene, this kicks off the first of many morally backwards moments that fuel this terrible movie.
'If I Stay' spends a good chunk of time establishing that Mia is special. What makes her unique is that she's not at all like her parents – thank heaven. With a bright mind that's trained in classical music, the sky is the limit – that is, until tragedy strikes. Fifteen minutes into the movie, she, her parents and her younger brother are in a nasty car accident that leaves her having an out-of-body experience while her comatose body is kept alive by first-responders, surgeons and doctors. The narrative bounces back and forth from her out-of-body experience to memories from before the accident, all of which feature Mia's voice-over narration.
The post-accident story is all about Mia watching her surviving family members go through their own hospital experiences. At the same time, mourning family members and friends drop by to talk to her still body and her former boyfriend visits. Her visitors have no idea that their visits are being spectated by Mia's sulky ghost. Although none of the family and friend drama carries any weight, it's worlds better than the stereotypical angst-filled teenage romance that fills the other half of the movie. Their love is cliché, sensationalized and overly dramatized, giving the movie an air of annoying unlikable melodrama. Combine that aspect with the manipulative hospital drama and 'If I Stay' becomes an overbearing, joyless and forced assault on the emotions. As hard as it tries to pluck at the heart-strings, it never hits an enjoyable note.
While teen girls may eat this garbage up, the parents of said teenage girls will not. Once they find out that there are two sex scenes with teenage Mia and her boyfriend and various scenes of teen alcohol abuse – mind you, both of which are deemed acceptable by Mia's parents – they especially won't want their little girls partaking in this cinematic excrement. While a few aspects of the filmmaking of 'If I Stay' are done well, there's nothing to story that's remotely praiseworthy. 'If I Stay' feels like an adaptation of a grocery store trash novel made for the kids of absentee parents.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Fox has given this MGM title the combo pack treatment, which includes a Region-A BD-50 with some exclusive-to-Blu-ray featurettes, a DVD and a code that can be redeemed for either an iTunes or an Ultraviolet digital copy. A separate code is included that unlocks a free song download from the movie's soundtrack. All is housed within a two-disc blue Elite keepcase that comes in a glossy cardboard slipcover whose art matches that of the keepcase. Upon inserting the disc, following a forced Fox Home Entertainment vanity reel, there is a commercial celebrating 90 years of MGM releases and trailers for 'The Fault in Our Stars,' 'The Longest Week' and 'The Best of Me.'
'If I Stay' comes with a pretty enjoyable 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode that's only brought down by bad directorial decisions. The movie kicks off with a fantastic-looking Warner Bros./New Line Cinema vanity reel. The blues and golds featured within are gorgeous. Unfortunately, the movie's overall palette – much like its central character – is pretty lifeless. Some vibrant colors appear throughout, like the "vanilla sky" towards the end, but the movie's design mostly features drab colors that don't take advantage of its potential.
Shot digitally, the majority of the movie shows great detail and sharpness. Clothing textures, individual strands of hair, woodgrain patterns in musical instruments – fine features are almost always visible. Almost. For reasons unknown, some scenes are shot with the absolutely softest focus ever used in cinema. It's one thing for Nancy Meyers to use soft focus to remove Diane Keaton's aging lines and for any given director to use it to use it in a flashback sequence, but to randomly use it throughout a movie without a rational reason is another thing. The over-the-top softness removes all of the movie's strong details.
Black levels are deep and rich. Nighttime scenes are wonderful, never resulting in crushing or a loss of definition. Contrast is consistent throughout, offering glowing whites – like a snow-covered forest setting – that are just as enjoyable as the deep blacks.
'If I Stay' comes with a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track that's not always impressive, but does a decent job for the movie it supports. A large chunk of the film features a voice-over narration provided by Moretz. With voices playing an important role in the narrative, the vocal mix is very strong. Dialog is always crystal clear, so much so that it actually called my attention before I'd even jumped into "review mode."
With music playing a prominent role in the movie, be it the score or the movie's topical indie rock or classical tracks, music is consistently mixed throughout the space. It always sounds nice and full, emanating from all channels. The surround speakers produce just as much sound as the forward speakers.
Unfortunately, the effects aren't as well-mixed as the music. While the music is dynamically spread, sound effects are not. The movie itself doesn't offer up as many wowing effects opportunities as most, but those featured throughout are front-heavy. When Mia's family's car crashes into a sliding pick-up truck, the sounds of shattered glass, screeching tires and twisting metal mostly blast from the front speakers. When it comes to effects, this mix falls flat.
After seeing 'If I Stay' once in the theaters and disliking it, I'd hoped that a second viewing on Blu-ray would reveal stronger characteristics that I'd missed the first time. Unfortunately, it did not. I found it just as manipulative, cheesy and morally absurd as I did the first time. Just as the writing ruined the story, bad directorial decisions take away from the mostly-great video quality. The audio mix is decent, but the special features are extremely bland. From the movie to its Blu-ray transfer, 'If I Stay' fails to do anything noteworthy, earning its place amongst all other forgettable YA adaptations.