If there weren't already enough reasons to stay, the picture and sound add two more
If I Stay Film Review
Hot on the tail of the far more engaging The Fault in Our Stars, this latest novel-based romantic drama aims for a more music-centric approach in its dissection of dalliances with death and reflections upon life.With an unfathomably, and unconvincingly glamorous Chloe Grace Moretz taking centre-stage as the largely ignored classical cellist teenage prodigy whose life is turned upside down by an unexpected disaster, immediately If I Stay struggles to keep you invested in the plight of its characters. The premise is simple – Moretz’s musical genius is awaiting the result of an audition for Julliard when fate lands her a blow that leaves her at death’s door. Stuck in a coma, she is forced to look back on her life and figure out whether she has anything left to live for. Frustratingly, for the audience, this immediately raises questions over why the filmmakers expect us to be in the least bit interested in what somebody so unquestionably gifted - in every way, from musical talents, to friends, to family, to love - could deign to question she could possibly have left to live for.Had this been a movie about a parent who lost their child, and was stuck in a coma trying to figure out whether to join their loved one at the pearly gates or come back to the seeming emptiness of their lives, the film might have more readily struck a chord. Still, thankfully, and more literally, the movie does strike a chord with its music, bringing us a far more endearing portrayal of two lovers from different musical universes, whose separate successes threaten to tear them apart. Moretz’s sparring partner, Jamie Blakely, is far more convincing, and the supporting cast do their best. If I Stay doesn’t have anywhere near the weight of The Fault in Our Stars, and instead treads in predictable cliché and familiar formula whilst wearing our patience with a character so patently extraordinary that the commonalities with the misfortunes that the rest of the human race might suffer in equivalent, seem leagues apart.
Blu-ray Picture QualityIf I Stay hits UK shores on a Region Free Blu-ray complete with a largely impressive 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition video presentation courtesy of MGM. The digitally-shot feature boasts some excellent detail, with a richly defined image that observes the key locations, both indoor and outdoor, and renders the close-ups well too. The textures allow depth and the broader shots are rich and authentic, with a frequently film-like quality to them, irrespective of the digital cinematography.
Hitting UK shores on a Region Free release, the technical merits of the feature are readily evident.
The colour scheme offers up some warm tones, well, other than within the cool confines of the hospital wards. The houses are dominated by rich wood tones, and the live music sequences, whilst far from as grotty as the venues you might encounter in real life, are still rendered well. Black levels are strong and overall this is an excellent video presentation. If there’s any criticism it mainly surrounds Chloe Grace-Moretz’s character, almost literally, with a strange softness that frequents the rendering of her character, particularly in some of the early indoor sequences, however it’s certainly nothing to get frustrated about, and doesn’t really draw this presentation down from being a demo effort.
Blu-ray Sound QualityPresented with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track, all of the key elements are in place, from decent, although unspectacular effects coverage, to clear and coherent dialogue reproduction, but it’s the music that stands out. Dialogue takes precedence across the frontal array, and there’s clear distinction between the in-movie words and the overriding narration that has an almost ethereal feel to it. Effects are almost entirely atmospheric, but allow the environments to be defined with subtle authenticity, irrespective of the understandable but complete lack of bombast.
Centred on its musical array – from live band performances to classical solos – the soundtrack is surprisingly potent for this kind of release.
The songs – and music – performed, however, take the track to a different level, elevating the many sequences involved and giving the offering a more performance-based definition that will undoubtedly make you sit up and pay attention. String notes resound, whilst live band performances reverberate, and bring the music right into your living room. Surprisingly perhaps for this kind of romantic drama, this is a resoundingly demo worthy offering.
Blu-ray ExtrasIn terms of extra features we get a whole selection of decent offerings, headlined by dual commentaries – an audio commentary by director R.J. Cutler and producer Alison Greenspan and a separate track by the director devoted entirely to dissecting the musical choices made for the soundtrack. We also get a further couple of music-centric offerings including a short music montage and a music video, as well as a 3-part making-of featurette, Beyond the Page, which itself further dissects the music, with chapters devoted to The Love of Music, Adapting If I Stay, and An Out of Body Experience. There are also a couple of brief deleted scenes with optional commentary by the director and producer. The disc is rounded off by a stills gallery, theatrical trailer and some previews.
If I Stay Blu-ray VerdictThe film eschews what would have been a far more interesting exploration of what an ordinary person with an ordinary life would do if they found themselves at death’s door and wondering whether there was anything left to live for. Instead If I Stay makes tragedy trite, and offers up a extraordinarily gifted and much-loved character who you will struggle to find has any reason not to stay. Still, notwithstanding this miscalculation on the part of the original premise, the tale itself, told largely in flashback, forges quite a warm romantic narrative that certainly engages, even if it struggles to stray from its predictably familiar path.
Fans of similar Young Adult at-death's-door romantic dramas, will want to add this to that very specific collection; everybody else won’t.
This Region Free UK Blu-ray release boasts excellent video and audio as well as a strong selection of extras and remains a must-have purchase for fans of the film, matching up to the preceding US counterpart on every level. Those who enjoyed films like The Fault In Our Stars may well want to check this out, although owning it will be another question entirely, founded upon whether your entire collection consists of similar such movies. Beyond that, it’s largely unremarkable, watch-once stuff.
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