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.