Directed by: R.J. Cutler
Based on the novel by: Gayle Forman
Starring: Chloë Grace Moretz; Mireille Enos; Joshua Leonard; Jamie Blackley; Aisha Hinds; Liana Liberato; and Stacy Keach
If I Stay by Gayle Forman was one of the books I read before I started blogging or even reviewing online. Suffice it to say, it was a truly moving and emotional read (even though I did like the sequel better!) and it has stayed with me for years.
When I saw a movie was being made I was both excited and skeptical – could it really convey the same emotional impact as the book (which at certain key moments felt like I was getting the metaphorical equivalent of being punched in the gut) and would it have the same kind of reaction on the big screen?
The answer is both yes and no. The movie is really well done and the performances from the cast are incredible (especially Chloë Grace Moretz who plays Mia and Mireille Enos who plays her mother Kat) but there was a little something lacking in the transition to the big screen.
The film was true to the book. Some parts were changed slightly but not enough that it proved distracting (or got my ever nitpicking brain kicking into gear). It was a pretty faithful adaptation and it did have me almost tearing up a few times. However, although Moretz managed to inject some poignancy to the proceedings it did sometimes feel as though the film was trying to manipulate the audience into having an emotional reaction rather than letting the material stand on its own merit.
What really helped bring the characters to life was the chemistry between the actors. Moretz and Jamie Blackley (who played Adam) really worked as a couple for me. The scenes they shared were filled with an understated passion that made you feel that these two young people were truly in love, not just some adolescent crush that wouldn’t last through to adulthood.
What tears them apart is their love for each other, which hit them at an exceptionally inconvenient time in their young lives. The scene where Adam begs Mia to stay was particularly moving as was the scene with her grandfather where he breaks down but ultimately lets her go if that is what she wishes.
The biggest criticism I have though is the lack of development for any of the other characters apart from Mia and Adam. It did make it hard to grieve the loss of Mia’s family with her because most of the time (in the form of flashbacks) was devoted to setting up Mia and Adam’s relationship which, although vitally important, took some valuable time away for her family which I felt would have underscored just how much Mia had lost in the accident which causes her to want to give up rather than stay.
I would also have liked Kim to have more screen-time (she was one of my favourites in the book and proved so again in the movie!) and also Adam’s band mates who never came across like actual living characters with their goals and ambitions in the film – they were more there to act as a backdrop to Adam and didn’t really make much of an impact on me.
Overall the movie was a good adaptation but it lacked the emotional resonance of the book for me.
Have you seen the movie? What did you think?