When one reads a book and loves it, imagining their own vision of all that is indicated in the novel, it can sometimes be hard to take in a movie adaptation of that book.
More often than not, movies fail to grasp the details of the book that make it loved by the fans, and thus become less than stellar in the box office. It could be in the screenplay, or the fact that your favorite scene(s) is not included for whatever reason, or that it’s just not delivered correctly, or, heaven forbid, the actor portraying the character doesn’t have – o.m.g. (by the way, I hate when people actually say “Oh Em Gee”) – the right eye color! Yes, fans are really that bad sometimes. Anyway, these all factor into the success of a movie adapted from a book.
Well, for the first time in while, especially because this is adapted from a Young Adult novel, I watched If I Stay without having read the book first.
Crazy, I know. But I had my reasons at the time, but I felt ready to watch it. I basically already knew the gist of the plot, so I wasn’t going in completely blind, but I certainly didn’t go in with already envisioned the characters as I would have if I’d read the book. And honestly, I completely understand it when people say they’d rather see the movie first before reading the book. I also completely understand that the book is almost always better (unless the book actually isn’t that good).
Let’s get on with this review.
So, the first thing I noticed and felt my inner self shaking my head about was the voice-over narration. I’ve read some reviews on other YA movies that had voice-over narration, and reviewers aren’t very nice about that.
For some, voice-over narration shows a lack of imagination, as well as laziness, on the screenwriter’s side. And in other movies that had such narration, in which I did read the book first and saw the movie after, I didn’t really think it to be a reason to dislike a movie. But after watching this movie, I think I can understand why, especially when it’s done throughout the whole movie.
Hearing the voice-over, I was already groaning inside. I didn’t realize how annoying the narration could be when you can just show me in the movie instead of explaining it all. For this movie, I really wished the screenwriter had put more effort into not having Chloe Moretz’s voice explain everything, and just have it explained, maybe even changed from the book more, to make it so that it’s not like I’m listening to an audiobook. But let’s move on from that.
I have no major complaints about any of the actors. I think they did just fine with the roles they were given. However, I’m not sure if I cared as much as I should’ve for some of these characters. Some things needed to be explained more. Such as why the nurse was so insistent on being there for Mia. I get that it’s a nurse’s job to be there for the patients, but why specifically this nurse to this patient? It was as if they were making it out to be something special, but in the end, there was not reason for it. Another one was Adam. I liked Jamie Blackley’s portrayal of Adam, however, there was a lot of detail missing into why he didn’t get along with his family. There was a little bit of info when Adam talks about seeing his father at a gig, but even then, it was so short, and nothing came of it. Adam even talks about how everyone always abandons him. But who and why? Parents? Siblings? Other lovers? His dog? I don’t know, and it makes it hard for the audience to sympathize for the character when these things are not explained.
I’m sure that most likely the book better explains everything, but the audience needs to understand these things or at least more of it to where they don’t actually need to read the book to be engaged with the plot or the characters. Yes, people should read the book, but many times they won’t.
Unfortunately, the movie has a problem in its pacing. It gets more into the melo than the drama in “melodrama”, and for the most part, it kind of lacks in power or punch when going through scene to scene. Basically it was missing major “highs” and “lows” for me, and only until near the end did I feel some kind of emotional distress (read “getting teary-eyed”) when Mia’s grandfather tells her in her comatose state that he understands if she doesn’t want to stay (alive, that is.)
The end isn’t really an end, either, which makes the movie just a little more frustrating than it should be. Now, this is probably something that works better in books than in movies, but ending a movie in such a way as this one did doesn’t give closure to the audience, which only frustrates them even more. Despite knowing that’s kind of how it ends, I was still unsatisfied with the experience that is If I Stay.
For this reason, I’m going to give the movie a 6 out of 10 stars. It’s saving grace was Stacy Keach’s moving speech to Mia in her coma, and Adam’s song to Mia, which I thought was very beautiful.
I still want to read the book, I’m just not sure when I’d have the time to do so.
Also, despite my lower than average rating, I’d really love to see a sequel made if it gives proper closure to this story.
Rating: 6 out of 10 stars