Girlfriend in a coma
If I Stay (12a) Running time 107 minutes Rating:***
Despite rumours to the contrary, reinforced by numerous Hollywood films, modern teenagers are pretty normal when measured against their predecessors over the centuries.
Young people got drunk, took drugs, behaved inappropriately and thought no-one understood them in almost every age going back to ancient times. Even straight-laced societies such as the Victorians had their young, angry rebels who shocked their elders and betters.
These days, many films portray young people (teenager is not a proper description, only an American marketing term) as either psychotically violent (The Purge), strange and gifted with super powers (Harry Potter) or vampires and werewolves (Twilight). So it’s actually nice to see a film about teenagers that is, comparatively speaking, sensible and wholesome.
If I Stay has the feel of a slightly updated Mills & Boon story from the 1950s. There’s the classically-handsome boy, the idol of most young girls because he plays in a band; the sort-of understanding parents who are aging punk rockers; nice grandparents who really understand young people and, of course, the pretty girl who stands out from the crowd by being a classical cello player. Mia (Chloe Grace Moretz) is the girl, Adam (Jamie Blackley) the boy, and their story has been spiced-up for modern readers by having a fatal car crash and out-of-body experiences (you can’t keep magic out of it entirely.)
The boy-girl relationship is sort of working, apart from the inevitable misunderstandings about a girl wanting to study music at university on one side of the USA, while the boy plays in a band that tours the West Coast. The car crash intervenes, with devastating effects on the girl’s family. She is left in a coma, while her disembodied spirit wanders around the hospital trying to work out whether to live or die – thus the title of the film. So, the potential for sickly sweet sentiment, otherwise known as Hollywood schmaltz, is very great, but to his credit, director RJ Cutler, whose main experience is in television, has tried to keep the sugar content to below vomit levels and the film works well – particularly if the audience is under the age of 15.
It’s the sort of film that you will see on daytime movie channels, one that is inoffensive but hardly makes an impact on the viewer. Both Moretz and Blackley do well portraying young people trying to work out the boundaries in their lives, while surrounded by a solid crew of supporting actors who help make the whole thing believable. The boy’s band even has some decent music to play which makes the time pass pleasantly. This is a movie that is good to watch if you are under 15 and probably a girl – or a boy who is working on a way to impress a girl.