Saturday, August 23, 2014

Review: If I Stay (Movie)

Another review of a movie adaption! I'm reading a number of books right now, but my progress through them has been halted by a new family addition of the leporine variety.  (Lemon is super-shy right now, but once he ventures out of his cage more, and is willing to pose, expect some shameless, view-bait pictures of him at the bottom of posts.)

Like Vampire Academy, If I Stay is a favorite YA read of mine — it's a favorite for a lot of people, hence its adaptation into a movie.  Unlike the Vampire Academy adaption, I thought the If I Stay movie didn't embarrass itself.

For those readers who haven't read the romantic tear-jerker, If I Stay follows a high school senior, Mia Hall.  Mia is a classical musician, born into a family of rockers and rock enthusiasts.  Despite their different genre lifestyles, Mia and her family enjoy a warm, close-knit, alternative relationship.  Practically part of the family is Mia's boyfriend, Adam, whose neo-punk band is about to make it big. 

At the beginning of the book and movie, Mia is waiting for a decision letter from Julliard.  She's dying to go, but an acceptance means leaving Oregon, and Adam, for New York.  But, very soon she has much bigger decision to make.  On their way to one of Adam's shows, Mia and her family are in a car crash.  Mia's spirit is flung from her body and, in this tenuous state, she must decide whether to pass away or remain with the living.  

While she makes her decision, a series of flashbacks take us into the past, where we witness defining moments from Mia's life.  We see how Mia first connected with the cello and emerged as a serious and talented musician.  We experience the dynamics of Mia's loving, off-beat family.  We view the solid friendship between Mia and the photography-loving Kim.  Most of all, we see Mia's memories of Adam — how the couple met, fell in love, and struggled to stay together while each having distinct and disparate life goals.  All of these memories affect Mia's will to stay or go.

The movie conveyed these characters and this plot well.  The casting for Mia's family was excellent.  The actors conjured the book's depiction of their characters to the note.  Mireille Enos and Joshua Leonard were Kat and Denny.  Jakob Davies, as Teddy, was an above-average child actor.  He had a lovely moment in the movie, where he speaks some emotional lines, and was spot-on.  Liana Liberato was fantastic as Kim.  Liberato caught my attention in Stuck in Love, and I was happy to see her in another movie.  She has a really authentic look and style of delivery that I like a lot.

I did have some issues with the casting of Chloe Grace Moretz and Jamie Blackley, as Mia and Adam respectively.  In regards to Moretz, I swear there's something that happens to emerging stars, especially women, where they cease to look like convincing normals, and start appearing overly put-together. Maybe I should blame the make-up team, but I was taken out of the film a number of times in my search for a single pore on Chloe Grace Moretz's face.  For a hair out of place.  For a wrinkle in her clothing.  True, the book does state that Mia's appearance is significantly more reserved and put-together in contrast with her family, but even my mom — my no-prior-knowledge viewing buddy — remarked on Moretz's distracting appearance. Aside from appearance, I thought Moretz did an adequate job in portraying Mia.  What kept her performance from being outstanding was her inability to capture book-Mia's spirit — a person who is quiet and reserved, but deeply emotional.

Jamie Blackley, as Adam, gave a performance that was even more off-kilter from the book.  He was a moody and somber figure, with some mild anger-issues.  Additionally, movie-Adam was given a bit of a tragic backstory that doesn't appear in the book, to the effect that movie-Adam was a less optimistic, charismatic character than book-Adam.  Another fault was Blackley's lack of chemistry with Moretz, despite their frequent smooching.  I felt like Moretz was giving a good effort, in that aspect, but Blackley's performance was unreceptive and unemotional. Overall, his acting wasn't a disaster, but I would rank it as acceptable, falling short of successful.

Other than these issues, the remainder of the production was solid.  The editing was effective.  The cinematography, polished. While the non-diegetic soundtrack was unremarkable, the diegetic music was very good. In regards to a minor, minor quibble, while watching the audition scene, I figured that Chloe Grace Moretz's head must have been transposed on top of a cellist.  I thought something about the visuals seemed a little off.  I googled it upon arriving home, and my suspicions were confirmed.  Not a big deal, but something that caught my eye.  

All in all, If I Stay was a good adaptation of a really good book.  I can't say that I'll ever watch it again in my lifetime, but when most book-to-movie adaptations wind up being abysmal, a solid interpretation is noteworthy.  This movie is a good fit for those who enjoy teen-oriented films and those who like romantic dramas.  


  1. I really liked this adaptation, but I wasn't crazy about CGM's casting, either. I thought they actually did do a good job of making her look the part/different than she normally does, but the perfect/not a hair out of place thing EVER is remarkable, hah. Adam did come off angrier than he did in the book from what I remember, although I actually ended up liking his performance--maybe because it was a pleasant surprise, because from the stills and trailer I didn't expect to like him at all.

    I loved how they captured her wonderful family and all the beautiful emotion of the book, though. I'm glad you enjoyed it overall. And thank HEAVEN it wasn't a Vampire Academy style disaster. Sheesh.

    Wendy @ The Midnight Garden

    1. Yes, it is so nice to see adaptions of good quality be made. Vampire Academy was... unfortunate. I read Midnight Garden's review of The Giver, and it sounds like they made some great decisions, so I might be heading to the theater to see it. Thanks so much for reading my review and commenting!

  2. I haven't watched If I Stay but during the release of the trailer, I was really excited about it. I liked the book If I Stay well enough but I REALLY fell in love with the characters in Where She Went. However, I have this horrible fear that if I watch it, the image I have of Mia and Adam is going to be ruined.

    1. I agree completely. I really liked If I Stay (book), but Where She Went blew me away emotionally. Pretty sure I cried. The characters were explored from such a different angle and it was really effective. I recommend watching the movie when your curiosity outweighs your trepidation. That's what I did with Vampire Academy and it worked out pretty well. I was able to watch the movie and not be traumatized!