*This review will contain spoilers!*
This is not a review of the brilliantly beautiful book by Gayle Forman, this is a review of the film adaptation of said novel. If you haven’t read the book, please don’t watch the film until you have! The book is absolutely amazing and while the film is extremely true to the novel I just think it’s so much more affecting if you read it instead of watching it. (This might just be me, but I cried three times during the book and nearly once during the film so I do find the novel much more emotional.)
‘If I Stay’ tells us the story of Mia Hall (played by Chloe Grace Moretz) whose family get into a car accident on a snowy road while travelling to visit family. Mia has an out-of-body experience, watching herself lying comatose in a hospital bed and hearing pleas from family and friends for her to come back to them, but the entire film revolves around the question of ‘If your life was going to be irreparably changed and you had the choice to get away from it, could you stay?’. She has her grandparents, her best friend Kim and her boyfriend Adam to go back to, but are they worth it?
I’m gonna admit I’m finding it hard to review this play, because I found the book practically faultless and it was SO LOYAL TO THE BOOK IT WAS UNREAL. Well, Adam’s band name was changed from Shooting Star to Williamette Stone (which sounds way more rock ‘n’ roll) and there’s less gore at the car crash and less swearing at the end of the book than I’d expected, but they were all good changes to allow for the ratings and to help the film appeal to a larger audience. But the attention to detail was spectacular; the ‘I <3 Yo Yo Ma’ stickers in Mia’s locker, the Debbie Harry costume she wears to the Halloween concert, even down to what I’d imagined Adam’s songs to sound like. It was just felt so flawless. A book adaptation done right.
I did read the book about a year ago (I didn’t have time to re-read it before the film as I’d intended because I didn’t realise I was going to see it today until late last night) so I can’t remember if absolutely everything was included or if the flashbacks were in the same places, but the film was so absorbing I didn’t find myself thinking about the book that much at all. The casting is perfect, the costume design encompasses the characters personalities amazingly and the soundtrack is one of the most ear-pleasing things I’ve ever experienced (and they need to release it as a physical copy and they need to release it NOW).
I’m sure that if ‘If I Stay’ didn’t matter so much to me as a book I would not be singing the praises of the movie so highly, because there were some issues. One minute there are no visitors allowed in the Intensive Care Unit to visit Mia, the next minute there are montage shots of lots of people loitering around in her room and even though that was explained in the book it wasn’t in the film so it could have been confusing for some watchers. Similarly, a major part of Adam’s speech to Mia at the conclusion of the novel was missing; when he says “If you do need me to go away, I’ll do that too […] maybe it’d be easier for you to erase us” in the novel it perfectly demonstrates how much Adam loves Mia, but that’s missing from the film (probably to perpetuate the myth that teenage relationships that start in films will always last forever and cannot possibly be ended due to grief and difficulty coping with the loss of ones entire family).
But, despite these issues, it just seems like such a triumph for a young adult film adaptation to feel so true to the novel. Yes, ‘Divergent’ did a good job and ‘The Fault In Our Stars’ had all the right bits in the right places, but there were things in both that just didn’t seem right to me (possibly the casting of Shailene Woodley… I just don’t think that was the right casting choice for either film, but that can be discussed another time). I was extremely worried about ‘If I Stay’, but I shouldn’t have been worried at all. The trailer made me cry, so I was expecting it to make me a lot more emotional than it did, but I’m almost glad that it didn’t because it would have detracted from the impact that the book has upon me every time I read it. I’m going to be reading the sequel, ‘Where She Went’, soon, so it will be good to see how the characters of Adam and Mia develop over the time period and see if it’s worth following their story even further because I’m almost more nervous about the follow-up than I was about the movie.