If I Stay



Heartbreaking but faithful adaptation will please book fans.
Popular with kidsParents recommend
  • Review Date: August 22, 2014
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2014
  • Running Time: 106 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Heartfelt messages about love and relationships -- how meeting someone when you're young can make a long-term relationship more difficult, but it's still worth the risk if it's the real thing. Mia's open relationship with her parents shows how important it is for parents and kids to trust and understand one another. Adam shows Mia that people should love you for who you are, not for who they think you can change into.

Positive role models

Although in many coming-of-age movies parents are portrayed as distant, insensitive, or antagonistic, Mia's are wonderful, and their relationship with her is everything a parent or teen could hope for: open, understanding, trusting, and encouraging. Mia is also a lovely and caring big sister to Teddy and a true best friend to Kim. Mia and Adam's relationship is on the intense side for a teen romance, but it's deep and mature, not just about looks or sex. They respect each other as musicians, and each understands that the other one's career might take them away, even if it hurts to consider separation. Mia's grandparents are also portrayed in a loving manner.


The car accident that kills members of Mia's family and leaves Mia in a coma is revisited several times throughout the film. These scenes are disturbing and upsetting. Mia's discovery of each death is heartbreaking, and her boyfriend, grandparents, and friends are also shown sobbing, embracing, and grieving the loss of their loved ones.


Adam and Mia have sex, and there are two love scenes -- both of which show the couple bare shouldered and either in bed or on the floor. Neither scene is gratuitous. It's mentioned that Mia was a virgin, while Adam was not. Also passionate kisses between the teens and between Mia's parents, who are very affectionate with each other.


Occasional but not frequent language includes "s--t," "bitch," "s--thead," "bulls--t," "damn," and "Jesus" (as an exclamation).


iPhone, MacBook, Ford Taurus wagon, Sonic Youth T-shirt.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Underage drinking at a music venue in a couple of scenes.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that If I Stay is a romantic teen tearjerker based on Gayle Forman's best-selling 2009 novel. It will appeal to the same audience as The Fault in Our Stars -- i.e., teens and adults familiar with the book or interested in coming-of-age romances. Because the story follows a young cellist (Chloe Moretz) who's comatose and must choose between life and death, there are understandably some upsetting and devastating sequences, including a fatal car crash that's revisited throughout the movie. Mia and her boyfriend Adam's (Jamie Blackley) love story is mature, passionate, and includes two non-gratuitous sex scenes (bare shoulders shown). The dialogue is occasionally punctuated with strong language like "s--t" and "bitch," and there are a couple of scenes of underage drinking in a music venue. If your teens have read the book or are ready for character deaths and near-death experiences, this is a poignant and romantic film that depicts one of YA's most beloved literary couples.

What's the story?

IF I STAY -- an adaptation of the emotional contemporary YA romance by Gayle Forman -- follows Mia Hall (Chloe Moretz), a brilliant 17-year-old cellist with an amazing life. She has an amazing rocker boyfriend named Adam (Jamie Blackley), cool parents, an adoring little brother, and a nearly assured acceptance to Juilliard. But then, on an unexpected snow day, the unthinkable happens, and Mia's family is involved in a fatal car accident. Standing over her comatose body, Mia realizes she can see what's happening to her from an in-between state of consciousness. She follows her body back to the hospital, where she learns the fate of her family and has flashbacks to memorable times in her life -- from learning the cello to falling in love with Adam. As Adam, Mia's grandparents, and her best friend, Kim (Liana Liberato), try to convince her to wake up, Mia must decide whether to fight and live or join her family in death.

Is it any good?


Fans of the book will be understandably biased in their experience of the movie, because director Greg Berlanti has fully captured what author Forman calls "all the feels" of her book while still making a few necessary changes for the visual translation of the story. Moretz trained for six months to portray a cello prodigy, and it shows -- the scenes of her playing (even if a professional is what audiences hear) are beautiful and poignant. Admittedly the "in limbo Mia" conceit might seem overly sentimental, but as Mia's memories begin to unfold, viewers will be pleasantly immersed in her back story -- from her hipster parents (lovingly played by Mireille Enos and Joshua Leonard) to her awesomely supportive BFF Kim to her hilariously punk-loving baby brother, and, of course, her life-changing relationship with Adam.

If I Stay won't work for everyone, particularly viewers who don't care about young adult romances. But those who give it a chance will be rewarded with one of YA's sweetest relationships, ably portrayed by Moretz and British newcomer Blackley. A musical theater vet, Blackley plays Adam more like an indie rock singer-songwriter than the alterno-punk version of him in the book, but he's still up there with Augustus Waters, Lloyd Dobler, Michael Moscovitz, and Patrick Verona as one of the best teen boyfriends in pop culture. This can be a heartbreaking story, but it's also hopeful. Mia's tale shows how transformative love and art are and how we're happiest with people who see and support what makes us unique.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about whether If I Stay is a successful adaptation. What changes did the filmmakers make? Do you understand why they made them? What parts of the movie captured the book best, and what parts of the book did you miss not seeing in the movie?

  • Do you prefer adaptations based on realistic fiction or based on genre fiction, like dystopian/paranormal stories? Why do you think there are so many YA adaptations out there?

  • How does the movie depict sex? Is Mia and Adam's relationship realistic? Parents, talk to your teens about your own values regarding sex and relationships.

  • Discuss the role of music in the movie. How is music a big part of Mia and Adam's romance?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:August 22, 2014
DVD release date:November 18, 2014
Cast:Chloe Grace Moretz, Mireille Enos, Liana Liberato
Director:R.J. Cutler
Studio:Warner Bros.
Topics:Book characters
Run time:106 minutes
MPAA rating:PG-13
MPAA explanation:thematic elements and some sexual material

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  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Parent Written byDan G. August 24, 2014

Glamorizes irresponsible sex between children

The main problem for children in this movie is that it portrays sexual acts between the main character and her boyfriend, high schoolers, as a wonderful, positive, wholesome experience. The high school girl even seduces her boyfriend. Of course, there is no talk of the consequences of engaging in reproductive activity, so it would be understandable how your children would leave this movie thinking that sex is something for girls to pursue (and that it is not about making new kids). Other objectionable elements are exposure to homosexual activity and significant crude language. For adults, the story line is very contrived and predictable, not really worth a trip to the theaters to see.
What other families should know
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Educator and Parent Written byTeenBoyzDad August 25, 2014

Depends on Your Family's Values

I really liked the movie, but I'm a music teacher so I'm biased. This movie shows a girl actually practicing her instrument to get better instead of the "Glee" style "Come back tomorrow with a song about 'heartbreak'" (all arranged, choreographed and perfected overnight). HOWEVER - the movie does give the impression that intercourse is the next step after passionate kissing, and that that is fine if you're 17 and in love. Yes, it happens in the book, but putting it onscreen is what teaches that it's OK. My 15 year old son loved the book, but he's not seeing the movie for a year or two.
Teen, 13 years old Written bygmvyoshi August 22, 2014

Great movie!

"If I Stay" is a great movie and I loved it! The movie is great for anyone 14+. (I agree with CommonSenseMedia.) The language wasn't horrible. B--ch, bulls--t, s--t, s--thead, a--hole, p-ssed, and "to get laid.". The sex scenes weren't that bad either. (Although, I was surprised to see an 8 year old in the theater-which I thought was inappropriate) The first scene-Mia and Adam are shown from the top up slowly pulling each other's clothes off and then very briefly shown kissing naked. The second scene-Mia and Adam are, all of a sudden, shown naked but covered and then start kissing. Not nearly as revealing as The Fault In Our Stars. (In my opinion, they show a lot more in TFiOS than in If I Stay) drinking-underage drinking at party (Brief)Also, when Adam is talking to Mia about another girl when he's dropping Mia off at her house, he tells Mia that Adam and that girl have something in common: they both like girls. Then, the girl Adam was talking about is shown making-out with another girl. (Who are both lesbians) in the book, Mia's dad smokes a pipe, but not in the movie. 14+!!
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking


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