Making the Grades
If you’ve watched the movie trailer for If I Stay, then you already have a pretty good idea of what happens in this story. The only thing missing is the final three seconds where everything is resolved. Knowing what is coming likely won’t be a problem for fans of the novel this film is based on. But parents may feel differently about the antics of this young girl.
If I Stay offers a highly predictable and sentimental love story about a teenager torn between her love of music and her love of a boy. Mia Hall (Chloë Grace Moretz) plays the cello like an angel. Her parents (Mireille Enos, Joshua Leonard), rock-n-rollers from a previous generation, aren’t sure where their daughter’s appreciation for classical music came from, but they are supportive of her blossoming talent. Mia’s boyfriend Adam (Jamie Blackley), also a member of a rock band, enjoys hearing her play as well. Life is almost perfect.
Then everything changes in an instant on a snowy highway.
Suspended between life and death in an out-of-body experience, Mia watches from the sidelines as her comatose self is rushed to the hospital to undergo surgery. Standing beside the gurney, she watches Nurse Ramirez (Aisha Hinds) lean into her ear and tell her to fight. Yet with her world crumbling around her, Mia struggles to decide if she’ll stay or go into the bright light at the end of the hall.
Like many movies aimed at adolescents, this one portrays characters involved in casual sex and drinking. But in this film, these aren’t college students or young adults. When the story begins Adam is a senior in high school and Mia a junior. Despite the fact she’s likely only 16, Mia gulps down liquor she’s been served in a bar (in a state where the legal drinking age is 21) while attending one of Adam’s gigs. And though Mia’s hipster parents may be more liberal than some in their outlook, there doesn’t seem to be any concerns about their daughter’s sexual activity. There certainly aren’t any consequences for her choices. As far as Mia’s mom is concerned, life is just one big mess so just live it. While that may be true, it could get a whole lot messier than it needs to be if teen viewers imitate the actions of these characters.
The story jumps between the present and a jumble of flashbacks designed to fill in the details of Mia’s young life. Among the most redeeming elements are the relationships she shares with her family, including her brother Teddy (Jakob Davies) and her Grandpa (Stacey Keach). She’s also lucky to have friends and relations who stand by her unconscious body offering words of comfort and hope. It’s then that Mia learns about the sacrifices her parents made to encourage her talent.
Unfortunately while those heartwarming moments are meant to generate tears, they don’t excuse the content issues that arise in this film. Sex and alcohol aside, Adam also pressures Mia to give up her dream of auditioning for Julliard in order to support his ambitions. While love often means making sacrifices, this seems like an awfully hefty concession for the exceptional cellist to have to make at such a young age.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about If I Stay.
What sacrifices do parents make for their children in this movie? How does Adam’s experience of a family differ from that of Mia’s? Why is he so afraid of her going away to school? Are his concerns understandable or is he too possessive? Should one member in a relationship have to give up everything in order to support the other?
At the hospital Nurse Ramirez takes a special interest in Mia. What difference does her compassionate care make in Mia’s treatment? What, in addition to medical intervention, is involved in a patient’s recovery? What role does the bedside vigilance of family and friends play?
What trendy elements are portrayed in this film’s settings? Do you think it is possible that the depictions of vinyl records, old style bikes and dial phones might make these items popular with viewing audiences? Are teen wardrobes likely to be influenced by the young characters’ clothing in this movie?