With few exceptions, every time I watch movie based on a novel I’ve enjoyed, I’m unable to appreciate the film. To me, the reading experience is more personal. My imagination is at work. I have the benefit of getting to know the characters at my own pace, from their physical make up to their emotional quirks. I live through the story with them, experiencing their struggles and triumphs, often lingering in their world for days afterward. With a movie, you get a faster, condensed version. Scenes are missing, the characters rarely appear as you’ve envisioned them, and if Hollywood has taken liberties with the story, you’re often disappointed with the result. It’s for these reasons that, when the option is available, I prefer to watch the movie first.
I’m not a person turned off by spoilers. My pleasure comes from the experience of the ride, not the conclusion, and I’ve found several new books in this manner. The Hunger Games, for example. I watched the movie on a whim, fell in love with it, and rushed to buy the books, which I then devoured over a five day period. (A mistake, as it turns out, because I haven’t enjoyed the subsequent movies, at all.)
When I began hearing the buzz around If I Stay, I also caught rumors that it would be made into a film. Instead of surrendering to my immediate gratification tendencies, I waited for Hollywood to introduce me to the story. Unfortunately, I won’t be picking up this book.
If I Stay is based on the novel of the same name, released back in, I want to say, 2009. Yes, I’m behind the times (no one ever accused me of being a trendsetter). Anyway, the story goes like this: Gifted cellist Mia is in a horrible car accident with her parents and younger brother. Commercials for the film typically led with this, so it came as no surprise. What follows is the immediate aftermath: ambulance, hospital, doctors, and an out-of-body Mia observing friends and family overwhelmed with grief while flashbacks deliver the backstory on our young heroine.
Honestly, I enjoyed the flashbacks. Enough that I was annoyed when we returned the hospital again, and again. Mia’s parents were the kind of dream parents every teenager wants. They’re cool, unbelievably understanding, and the chemistry between each member of the family (aside from Mia) was fun to watch.
From what I’ve read, the fact that Mia never felt like she belonged was quite accurately portrayed. She’s a somewhat naïve, somewhat intense, classical musician who never really seemed to relax. I blame this for about half my problem with Mia and Adam’s relationship. Yes, they both love music. They are both musicians. They both…nope, that’s pretty much it.
Adam’s a laid-back rocker on his way to becoming a star. He’s hot, charming, and adores her parents, but throughout this movie I struggled with the romance supposedly blooming between Adam and Mia. At no point did she seem to completely relax with him, and never did I feel as though he truly understood her.
It didn’t help that the casting was odd. Though lovely, Chloe Grace Moretz appears closer to thirteen than seventeen, while Jamie Blackley easily passes for a man in his early twenties. There was a small ick-factor there that I tried to ignore, but didn’t entirely succeed in doing. Trivial, perhaps, but in the end it was just one more reason I was disappointed with this movie. If true love is the only reason to survive an accident that has robbed you of your entire immediate family (which this story proposes), I need that relationship to be real and powerful. This wasn’t. Not to me, anyway.
When thrilled with a movie based on a book, I want that novel for the deeper experience of the story. With If I Stay, there just wasn’t enough to tempt me into the investment.