Based on the Gayle Forman novel, this teen weepie is wrenchingly emotional and packed with girly fantasies. But the characters and situations have a lot more earthy honesty to them than this summer's other big adolescent tearjerker The Fault in Our Stars. It may be just as relentlessly sentimentalised, but the issues involved are faced with a lot more grit and realism, so the film earns its sob-inducing emotions.
Set in Portland, Oregon, the story centres on the Hall family. Parents Kat and Denny (Mireille Enos and Joshua Leonard) are former rockers who have mildly toned down their wild ways as they have raised their children: 17-year-old Mia (Chloe Grace Moretz) and the younger Teddy (Jakob Davies) to be independent and artistic. Although Kat and Denny are rather taken aback by Mia's obsessive love of classical music and prodigious gift with the cello. Then Mia is shocked to discover that the cool rock-god Adam (Jamie Blackley) at her high school is interested in her. As their relationship develops over the next year, it hits a few bumps along the way. And it's during one of these bad patches that Mia is in a life-threatening car crash with her family. In an out-of-body experience, she watches everyone react to her life-and-death situation, wondering, "Should I stay or should I go?"
Which of course would be a much better title for a rock-n-roll movie than this one. Never mind, since the film is structured as a peeling-onion of flashbacks and out-of-sequence revelations, Mia's conundrum is genuinely complicated, in a movie sort of way. But then everything about this film exists only in the movies, most notably Adam, the most perfect boyfriend in the history of cinema: a bad boy musician with a deep soul, open emotions and thoughtful reactions. He has so clearly been devised to appeal to the teen-girl audience that it's occasionally a bit ridiculous.
Thankfully, Blackley plays him with an honest kick that makes him human. This is a potentially star-making performance for the young British actor, and his chemistry with the terrific Moretz is genuinely involving. They're also surrounded by a superb supporting cast that invests fully into roles that only shine momentarily. Enos and Leonard are wonderful as the best parents in the world, while Liberato (as Mia's best pal) and Keach (as her Gramps) stand out in strong scenes. In the end, the bittersweet mixture of pain and joy feels somewhat contrived, but it's a beautiful story very nicely assembled, so it works exactly as intended. And the actors bring the emotions in for the kill. Keep the tissues at hand.
Run time: 107 mins
In Theaters: Friday 22nd August 2014
Box Office USA: $50.5M
Box Office Worldwide: $75.4M
Distributed by: Warner Bros. Pictures
Production compaines: New Line Cinema, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 36%
Fresh: 43 Rotten: 75
IMDB: 7.0 / 10
Director: R.J. Cutler
Producer: Denise Di Novi, Alison Greenspan
Screenwriter: Shauna Cross
Starring: Chloë Grace Moretz as Mia Hall, Mireille Enos as Kat Hall, Jamie Blackley as Adam, Liana Liberato as Kim Schein, Stacy Keach as Gramps, Gabrielle Rose as Gran, Joshua Leonard as Denny, Jakob Davies as Teddy, Ali Milner as Liz, Aisha Hinds as Nurse Ramirez, Gabrielle Cerys Haslett as Young Mia, Lauren Lee Smith as Willow, Adam Solomonian as Henry, John Emmett Tracy as Surgeon, Chelah Horsdal as Liddy