Today, I’m trying out something that I’ve never really done before. I’m a voracious reader, and reviewer. I have written about my feelings about books being made into movies, especially recently. The one thing I haven’t done in relation to that? Writing a movie review.
Last weekend, I saw If I Stay. That one’s a movie I’ve been looking forward to for a very long time; I love the book to death and was looking forward to how they would convey all of it. It’s a story that has stayed with me since the first time I read it – right after sixth grade – and one that will forever change me.
I’m a romantic at heart; I’m a musician (horribly amateur, but I’m a piano aficionado and have much affection for music). This is a book that tugged at all my heartstrings.
If I Stay by Gayle Forman | Goodreads
The critically acclaimed, bestselling novel from Gayle Forman, author of Where She Went, Just One Day, and the forthcoming Just One Year.
On a day that started like any other, Mia had everything: a loving family, a gorgeous, admiring boyfriend, and a bright future full of music and full of choices. In an instant, almost all of that is taken from her. Caught between life and death, between a happy past and an unknowable future, Mia spends one critical day contemplating the only decision she has left. It is the most important decision she’ll ever make.
Simultaneously tragic and hopeful, this is a romantic, riveting, and ultimately uplifting story about memory, music, living, dying, loving.
After a horrific car crash leaves Mia an orphan, she’s stuck outside of her body watching the events unfold. She’s left with one choice: should she stay, knowing she’ll be alone and grieving over the death of her parents, or should she go and leave it all behind? Adding to the weight of the decision is her rocker boyfriend Adam, her best friend Kim, the possibility of Julliard, and her unsurpassable passion for the cello.
What the Movie Did Well
Although I hold a grudge against Chloe Grace Moretz for her comments degrading YA as a genre (c’mon girl, you’re seventeen and essentially degrading your age), I think she did a good job. I don’t know whether I can necessarily judge her performance due to my bias; I envisioned Mia as someone shyer but she still brought something to the screen.
The romance was sweet. Adam and Mia brought to life on the screen was a phenomenal relationship and one that I sank into immediately. The casting felt good, a nice mix. I really enjoyed Kim’s casting and she was even fuller in the movie than in the book. There were atmospheric moments where it all fell together and you felt the story all at once.
I really enjoyed the music. It was pretty good – there were some soft rock ballads in there, some surprisingly excellent covers, and beautiful orchestra pieces that illustrated Mia’s love for the cello.
It’s a quiet movie, and you have to go in expecting that. You can’t expect another The Fault in Our Stars because it’s a movie that doesn’t go out of its way to make you notice it. It’s a story that settles under your skin. It might not make you cry; it might not hit you with a tidal wave of emotion but it will tug at the back of your thoughts for years after you experience it. I read it in seventh grade and it’s still with me.
What Could Have Been Better
There were a few things that I felt could have been stronger.
The dialogue was cheesy. I was disappointed by how flat their relationship was on dialogue because Adam and Mia in the book are so much more; there were too many lines that made me roll my eyes. In the book, they have issues but Mia and Adam feel a lot more realistic concerning their future together; they acknowledge that certain problems exist and that doesn’t carry over as much to the movie. Of course, the same romance happens in The Fault in Our Stars but it still worried me that some people might only see that part of the movie and think it was yet-another-YA.
Another thing that I struggled with in the translation from page-to-screen was the awkward in-between Mia was occupying when she looked back on her life. The majority of the book – and therefore the movie – is composed of scenes of flashbacks. There are points when Moretz was running around the hospital, unsure of where her family was, that seemed rather stilted because in the book, it’s a reflection point. In transferring to the visual scene, they had to rely much more on action which didn’t quite come across at some times.
The Bottom Line
In the book, Gayle Forman’s writing is plain, and beautiful. It evokes a vulnerability and a quiet tranquility that is utterly priceless in a story. I’m a big believer in the idea that books don’t matter, stories do (a sentiment echoed by Maggie Stiefvater) and both the mediums of written word and film paid a glorious tribute to this story.
I can’t stop thinking about the movie right now. There are gorgeous scenes, warm scenes, ones that I wish I could pull from the screen and have in my life. There are shocking scenes and some sad ones, definitely, and those are handled gracefully.
I think some people may not enjoy the movie as much but that’s okay. It’s a great story and you should definitely be exposed to both portrayals. I don’t think you can go wrong with either, but as a reader, I strongly encourage you to read If I Stay as well. I’ll definitely be going to see the movie again.