If I Stay, a young adult novel by Gayle Forman, is the latest in a collection of “page to screen” movies set to lure in a teenage audience. These types of movies are genius when you think about it, because teens are a great target audience to mess around with.
No matter what kind of books teens opt for, these days when the movie industry is searching for ideas to transform onto the silver screen, essentially anything with a generally firm fan base is sure to gain a win in the box office. Especially for this purpose, because most teens don’t necessarily care too much about the quality of the film, but more so about the attractiveness in the lead male actor. All stereotypes aside, it is safe to say that this movie puts a bit more of a memorable spin on the phrase, “you only live once,” or, “YOLO.”
The film centers on seventeen year-old Mia Hall, a high school senior portrayed by Chloe Grace Moretz, with big dreams and big choices. Between planning ahead for her career and her love life, Mia seems to be living the life and common stresses that many a teen can relate to. All this of course until her family is struck in a head-on collision, leaving Mia’s comatose self an orphan, no doubt changing her life drastically.
While laying unconscious in her hospital room, Mia has an out-of-body experience, in which she is able to reflect on the events that led up to the crash, flickering back and forth to her ghostly presence that bears witness to the love that remains for her in her present day life. While the audience delves into Mia’s back story with her, the ultimate choice of her determining whether or not she will decide to stay alive or die is the main conflict, hence the title of the film.
Now, from my perspective of not reading the book, I don’t know whether I should be criticizing the author’s or the writers lack of the general character development a.k.a., my only issue with the film. It’s fair to say, I think, that a good chunk of the purpose for this story was to captivate the audience with the relativity of the themes of family, love, and life or death. Just getting the audience to really feel and start thinking about how the situation would differ had it been them and their family in the car accident.
But for those who have, dare I say it, already spent late nights considering these mind wandering thoughts, what of the story itself? The film covered basic aspects of each character, focusing mostly on Mia’s relationship with her love interest, Adam (played by Jamie Blackley), but didn’t go as deep into the relationships with her parents, brother, and her best friend, Kim, as well. During her comatose state, her best friend in particular is in almost every scene in the hospital, but I wish that she actually seemed to be the best friend in the past, and not just another person who showed up midway through the movie.
However, taking a choice topic like life and death for a film, I expected that they wouldn’t only highlight the boyfriend/girlfriend relationship, but seeing as it’s a movie set to attract teens, expecting such would after all, be a bit foolish. I may even be bold enough to say that the writers were a bit sloppy with this portion, just because maybe they thought that the audience wouldn’t focus too much on the characters, other than the relationship issues at hand. You’re supposed to be able to learn a lesson from the characters within a movie, but with this one, I only managed to be amused for it’s running time. The film only half did it’s job, because after I left the theater, I did not feel very changed.
Other than that, I have nothing else but good things to say. Chloe Grace Moretz was convincing in her role, and it was obvious to see that she had really embraced Mia’s character. The dynamics between Mia and Adam was dream worthy for every teenage girl, and no doubt will set the bar even higher for boys than it already has. The emotion that ran off of both Moretz and Blackley was honest enough for a movie relationship, and the film did portray it with a sufficient dose of the ups and downs of fighting – a vital component that can often be mistaken as lust in other films.
All in all, the film wasn’t really bad, but it wasn’t mind-blowing either. It’s sufficiency was satisfactory enough. The acting and directing were both good, however the character development could have used a bit of a shove further.
Regardless of what any critic would have to say though, I still can’t stop seeing teens tweeting about it, so it seems that the filmmakers made a bit of a hit after all. Let’s hope it doesn’t fade out like the Twilight saga, or The Fault In Our Stars though.
If I Stay opens nationwide August 22nd. Watch the trailer.
Review by Vanessa Kolthof.