If I Stay Offers Tears, Little Else

Critics mixed on emotional teen flick
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 22, 2014 10:26 AM CDT

If I Stay tells the story of a teen girl with a big future who's nearly killed in a car crash. Informed by out-of-body experiences, she must decide whether to stick around on Earth or head to Heaven. It'll make you cry, but it doesn't offer much otherwise, critics say. (Audiences, however, seem to disagree: 80% like it at Rotten Tomatoes, twice the figure for critics). Some examples:

  • It's up to audiences "whether the movie's many moments of genuine sweetness and affecting tenderness can survive the persistent silliness of Mia's out-of-body excursions," writes Joe Morgenstern at the Wall Street Journal. "At its best, If I Stay evokes the primacy of friendship, the warmth of family … and the urgency of adolescent love. But the production as a whole is awfully clumsy."

  • "Full disclosure: I went through half a pack of Kleenex watching If I Stay," writes Elizabeth Weitzman in the New York Daily News. "But know this: Those tears are no more honestly earned than if director RJ Cutler had merely been chopping onions in front of me. … The movie is designed not to explore the experience of illness, or first love, or adolescence, but merely to make us swoon, sigh, and sob."
  • The movie "hews largely to the same formula as The Fault in Our Stars," another book-based film dealing with teens facing death, notes Ann Hornaday in the Washington Post. But If I Stay offers "the perfect bookend to a tear-stained summer": "Even at its most wrenchingly painful, the film readily delivers generous dollops of pleasure."
  • In the Los Angeles Times, Kenneth Turan calls the film "a flat-out, all-in fantasy romance, an unashamed tear-jerker that is unafraid of glossy emotions." Sure, "every moment in If I Stay is not all that it might be"—but when its leads "are looking into each other's eyes, you are not going to care."
(More film stories.)

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