Movie Thoughts: If I Stay

Gayle Forman’s If I Stay has been one of my favorite books since I first read it in 2010. It’s actually one of the few books that have made me bawl my eyes out. And I’ve been following the movie adaptation since the rights were first sold. Now, after a change of studios, directors and actors, the movie is a real, live thing. On Monday, I was fortunate enough to see the film at a special advance screening hosted by Refinery29.

For those unfamiliar with the book, If I Stay tells the haunting story of Mia, a young cellist who finds herself existing in a sort of limbo state following a fatal car crash that kills her immediate family and leaves her in a coma. She must decide whether to live or to die. Watch the trailer below:

Every time one of my favorite books is adapted for the screen, I’m equal parts excited and horrified. We all know Hollywood rarely gets it right when it comes to book adaptations, but luckily, If I Stay is one of the better ones. Shauna Cross’s screenplay is rather seamless and she has maintained the feel of the story and the raw emotion the book possesses. Overall, the film has a nice, subtle feel to it that enables the actors’ performances to be center stage at all times. The music is excellent and the pacing is extremely fluid. The themes of family, young love and music are explored and presented beautifully, and there’s a little something for everyone.

Still, the movie isn’t without its faults. Director RJ Cutler and his editing team could have created smoother scene transitions and the repetitive camera angels leave the film looking dull and stagnant. Additionally, the character of Adam, Mia’s boyfriend, comes across as more of a jerk than in the book. On the other hand, his angst helps illustrate that young love is most often messy. And while Mia’s character has remained intact, Chloe Grace Moretz’s portrayal is more wooden than lively, and leaves much to be desired.

Overall, though, the movie is full of emotion and heart, and has enough sparks of humor and poignancy to balance it all out. Despite its flaws, this is one of the better book-to-movie adaptations and is sure to leave audiences breathless.

If I Stay hits theaters nationwide this Friday, August 22. Do you plan on seeing it?