When you hear about young adult literature being adapted into movies, it doesn’t typically bring to mind anything with much depth – more likely, the first movie that came to your mind was Twilight. Considering it’s not so flattering company, and how it was originally slated to be directed by none other than Twilight director Catherine Hardwicke, I have to say I’m pleasantly surprised. If I Stay seems to be a compelling coming of age story.
Based on the popular YA novel of the same name by Gayle Forman and anticipated for release on August 22, the upcoming film will feature Chloë Grace Moretz as the protagonist, Mia. After some comings and goings of directors, R.J. Cutler became the film’s final director.
Mia is a gifted musician, but unlike her rock-and-roll loving family, her talents lie with the cello. When her family is involved in a terrible car accident, she falls into a coma and starts living an out-of-body experience. Suddenly, her worries about whether to pursue her dreams of attending Juilliard seem insignificant when compared to the decision her entire life now hinges upon: whether to let herself die or keep living in a broken body and a world without her parents.
The trailer, directly based on the prologue of the novel, succinctly explains her situation in a two-minute monologue. The only other dialogue is the words from a nurse, a defining moment in her life: “If you live, if you die, it’s all up to you. So whatever fight you have in you, you’ve got to pull it out now.” It flashes through scenes from her life before the accident and scenes of her passing through her life afterwards, separate from her body, able only to watch as events unfold around her coma-stricken body. She’s seen playing the cello, watching a live band, and dancing through a construction site around skid loaders and heavy machines. These scenes are obviously intended to represent an internal battle as she tries to gather the strength to keep fighting. At a high point of the trailer, her boyfriend Adam sits by her side and begs her to wake up.
The combination of the powerful music (by French electronic band M83) and imagery might be enough to make you cry from the trailer alone; I imagine the movie itself will definitely bring audiences to tears.
While watching the trailer, an earlier book-to-movie adaptation with a young female protagonist unable to interact with friends after her death might come to mind – that is, The Lovely Bones. In that story, the main character watched from heaven as her friends and family moved on after her death, as the victim of a serial killer. The book was wildly popular, but the movie failed to captivate audiences, due in part to a pervasive feeling of “everything-will-be-okay” and some sub-par computer generated effects. Hopefully If I Stay, which lacks the violent element of the other story’s plot, will escape this fate.
The book’s sequel, Where She Went, was released in 2011 and was well-received, earning over 4 stars on Goodreads. If Cutler’s audiences enjoy the film come August, who knows, they may have an eventual sequel to look forward to.