If I Stay by Gayle Forman is a fantastic novel. While I haven’t had the chance to read it again for a few years, I’d highly recommend it for anyone looking for a quick, dramatic contemporary read. Recently the book was turned into a film and I had the chance to see it on opening night last week.
I’ve figured out that the longer it’s been since I’ve read a book, the better a chance there is that I’ll enjoy the movie adaptation. Contemporary novels also seem easier to translate to screen because we don’t need any time to be immersed in that world; it’s the one that we’re already living in. Knowing that I loved the book and not quite being able to remember the details had me going into the movie excited but with little expectation. I’ve also learned not to get my hopes up.
I’ll start with my impression of the material released before the movie was out. I really liked the animated posters made for If I Stay; in fact, I even like the book cover for the movie, which is the same as the poster pictured above. Capturing other aspects of Mia’s life, rather than simply having a cover of the actress who plays her, was a fantastic choice. I also think that they did a great job with the covers, being able to show the story to people who might never have heard of the book before. I did tear up at the trailer.
Now on to reviewing the actual movie. I was a little worried about the actors chosen for the film because I’d never seen Chloe Moretz in a film like this and knew nothing about the guy they chose for Adam except (like most of the time) he didn’t fit the image I had in my mind of what Adam might be like. And, well, I expected him to be more conventionally handsome. I feel like throughout the movie, Moretz did a better job of convincing me that she was truly her character, but I also came to accept Adam because I think he nailed his personality exactly.
One thing I didn’t like about the two? Well, it wasn’t the actors, but the fact that the director decided that they needed to have so many scenes making out. Okay, I get it. You love each other. That doesn’t mean that we need to spend five minutes every fifteen minutes staring at you while you ever so slowly kiss each other. I mean, it was touching at first, but after a while it kind of felt like they were those people who make out in public places, the ones you just kind of want to nudge out of your way and try to forget.
One of the most powerful scenes for me was when Mia’s grandfather came to speak to her in the hospital. Up until that point, I’d been teary, but with that performance I completely lost it. It makes you think of those you lost and how maybe they were in pain and just needed to let go, even if you didn’t want to lose them. It reminds you of how lucky you are, if you’re healthy and you’re loved ones are, too. It’s something that we don’t really appreciate it until we realize it’s gone and we have no way of immediately getting it back for ourselves. I have no idea what the actor’s name is, who plays her grandfather, but he was my favorite.
I wish that the film had focused a little more on the relationships Mia had with people such as her grandfather, her friends, and maybe a little more time with her family, too. Sure, I liked seeing all of the cute scenes with her and Adam, but he isn’t the only one who factors into her decision of whether or not she should stay in this world or decide to let go.
If you haven’t read If I Stay, I’d say you could decide whether or not you want to read it before the film. The ending might be more spectacular if you read it first; it was fun seeing how all of the people in the theater who hadn’t read the book reacted! But if you see the movie first, you’ll enjoy it and then be compelled to learn more about the characters. Maybe even picking up the companion novel, Where She Went, too.
I’d give this book to movie adaptation 4 out of 5 stars and will be recommending it to others.