If I Stay, film review: Sugary screenplay makes this limbo drama dead nauseating

(12A) RJ Cutler, 107 mins Starring: Chloë Grace Moretz, Miriella Enos, Jamie Blackley
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The Independent Culture

RJ Cutler's teen weepie If I Stay makes for very sticky viewing indeed. It features the admirable Chloë Grace Moretz as a car-crash victim whose spirit leaves her body.

From Christmas movies to Powell and Pressburger's A Matter of Life and Death and Ingmar Bergman's Wild Strawberries, there are many other films in which characters at a point of crisis are able to indulge in a little astral projection – to flit back to their childhoods, to imagine a world in which they no longer exist, or to appeal to a heavenly court to be allowed to stay alive a little longer. At their best, these films can have a tremendous pathos about them. At their worst, they can feel trite in the extreme.

Moretz is perfectly cast as the shy cello prodigy Mia Hall. She has a ghost-like pallor even before the accident. The yuckiness here comes from a manipulative and sugary screenplay that makes even the terminally lachrymose The Fault in Our Stars seem dry and restrained by comparison.

In flashbacks, we follow Mia's love affair with her rock musician boyfriend Adam (Jamie Blackley). ("Being with Adam was like learning to fly. It was exciting and scary all at the same time.") We see her hanging out with her hipster, Iggy Pop-loving parents and doe-eyed little brother. "It was like my heart was beating with the cello," Mia tells us at one stage. Director Cutler can't stem the gushing or make any of the emotions feel real.