Gayle Forman joins the ranks of Young Adult authors who have had their work adapted for film, the 2009 book If I Stay, a youthful romantic drama which has its fair share of laughter and tears has been made into a film starring Chloë Grace Moretz. The 17 year-old actress plays Mia Hall, a gifted cellist whose unconventional family are suddenly and tragically taken away from her. The teenager survives a car crash but is in a coma. The film, like the book, follows her out-of-body revelations while deciding to live or die.
According to a number of websites, Moretz was not the first choice to play Mia. Dakota Fanning was first approached and then Emily Browning. Chloe burst into the world’s consciousness when she played the 11 year-old Hit-Girl in the 2010 film Kick-Ass. She reprised her role in the mediocre sequel Kick-Ass 2. The young star has been very busy of late, playing the title role in the remake of Carrie, and working in a number of other productions including Dark Shadows.
Moretz’s love interest in the film is played by Brit actor Jamie Blackley. Spouting a perfect American accent and the kind of looks guaranteed to make young girls in the audience to go weak at the knees, the 23 year-old actor and Chloe Moretz made a realistic couple in this tale of opposites who attract. As the head of a local rock band, Blackley convinces, both in his role as lead guitarist and as Mia’s boyfriend.
If I Stay showcases that youthful experience of falling in love with that first “true love.” The romantic drama captures the laughter and tears of all who are either going through that roller coaster of emotion and obsession or those who remember it all too well. Both Moretz and Blackley sell their character’s excitement and awe in their rapidly growing romance.
The story, written by Gayle Forman, was actually optioned for a film before it was even published. Watching the movie it is easy to see why studios were in such a hurry to make the movie. Unlike the other Young Adult films on offer, Hunger Games and Divergent, to name but two, this movie may have a touch of a “supernatural or paranormal” element which has Hall having an out-of-body experience while in a coma, but it feels more real and has much less of a fantasy/science fiction backdrop.
To be sure, the family, a sort of pleasingly oddball group made up of a former punk-rock drummer and his groupie wife, daughter and son, may not be everyone’s idea of reality. However the efforts of Mireille Enos as Kat, the mother, and Joshua Leonard as Denny, the father, make the family unit work beautifully.
When the accident occurs, which takes out Mia’s entire close family unit leaving her alone in the world except for her grandparents and aunt, the event is not too overly shocking. Fans of the book will expect the incident and anyone who has seen a trailer for the film will also. The story, despite this prior knowledge, of young love and death is a splendid one.
Moretz makes the transition from mini-action hero to a teen girl experiencing her first romance effortlessly. Director R.J. Cutler does an adequate job of not showing too much skin in the film’s one love scene. Cutler seems an odd choice for the Young Adult romance story since his directorial experience is mainly in the area of documentaries. Regardless of this more “cut and dried” approach to filmmaking, Cutler does a great job helming this romantic drama.
All the actors in the film do a brilliant job. Special props need to be given to Stacey Keach, however, who plays the grandpa. Keach’s role in terms of screen time is little more than a cameo, but later in the film at Mia’s bedside this old pro has little problem reducing the audience to tears and sobs. The 73 year-old actor should get a supporting actor nomination at the very least for his performance in this film.
If I Stay deals with the youthful romantic drama that most teenagers go through at least once. Apart from the laughter and tears, the film offers an experience that will please the younger members of the audience and the female viewers. Even the older, male cinema goers may appreciate the film, if they can remember that feeling of being swept away by their first “true love.” If I Stay opens in cinemas countrywide on August 22. A warning to those romantics out there, bring tissues.
By Michael Smith
Regal Red Rock Stadium 16