Early summer found The Fault in Our Stars producing the tears in our eyes, but late summer can only offer the heaviness in our eyelids in the form of If I Stay.

Like Stars, Stay is similarly adapted from a novel in which lovestruck kids are coping with life-and-death situations. Yet unlike that earlier teen titan, this pedestrian picture remains an emotional flatline. Chloe Grace Moretz plays Mia Hall, a high school student blessed with hip parents (Mireille Enos and Joshua Leonard), a saintly little brother (Jakob Davies) who refrains from doing bratty little-brother things like flushing his sister's makeup down the toilet or pelting her with spitballs during dinner, and an amazing talent as a cellist.

As if her life wasn't already blessed enough, she also acquires a boyfriend in Adam (Jamie Blackley), a fledgling rock star and the coolest guy at school. Matters take a turn for the horrific, though, once the Halls are involved in a brutal car accident. Mia ends up in a coma, and her spirit wanders the corridors of the hospital, checking on the fates of her family members and hoping Adam pays a visit. All the while, she takes a page from The Clash's "Should I Stay or Should I Go," reflecting on her life as she decides whether to let go and pass away or stay strong and fight to survive.

R.J. Cutler directs his first theatrical feature after a career spent helming TV shows and historical documentaries, and there's nothing to indicate that branching out was a sound decision. Working from a script by Shauna Cross, he has managed to create a film that's banal at almost every turn, with the ample flashbacks proving to be especially suffocating. Moretz is given precious little to do besides looking anxious, while Blackley is a complete dullard as this supposedly magnetic Mick-Jagger-in-the-making.

Granted, any movie that name-drops Debbie Harry can't be all bad, and Enos and Leonard are charming as the parents, but these few attributes are hardly reason enough to stay for the duration.


More by Matt Brunson


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Connect Today 10.16.2018

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