Gayle Forman’s If I Stay was more visually appealing than its big screen adaptation. The book had a number of beautifully written scenes which sadly, weren’t given great importance nor captured clearly in the flick. The movie, all the more, intentionally eliminated some important factors Forman had established — the beauty of a lovely family and great friendship — to give way to a sad and predictable teenage love story.
Mia and her cool family
I admire Mia’s family. They were so close that making sacrifices wasn’t an option but a natural way to do things. A number of Mia’s sacrifices were omitted in the movie — her efforts on babysitting younger brother Ted; she being there when her mother gave birth to Ted; she singing their father’s song to her sibling so he could sleep. None of these were mentioned in the flick– simple mundane moments hyping what Mia can do for her family. These, if only shown in the movie may, therefore, strengthen Mia’s wanting to stay for the sake of her little brother, having initially believed that Ted had survived the crash. And all the more gave her an excuse to give up and die, too, when she learned Ted died in a different hospital.
Another thing I truly admire was that Mia could confide to her mother almost anything from love to Halloween costume. I was delighted to have seen these in the flick as I always picture myself, too, being approached by my boys to consult on anything even love and crushes.
Mia and her best friend Kim
Aside from her family, Mia treasured her relationship with best friend Kim. It was such a disappointment for the movie to have understated this friendship. Forman, through flashbacks, narrated the start of the two girls’ beautiful friendship. It was after their fist fight at school that they’ve realized they could be best pals than arch enemies. The movie wasn’t able to set up how their friendship blossomed and how Kim was supportive of her.
The book was very vivid when it narrated Mia knowing Kim too much — Kim knew Mia would want Adam at her side so she must have personally gone to Adam and brought him to the hospital. That was such a sweet gesture any girlfriend could do which the book was able to illustrate but not in the movie. If only the movie showed that, viewers would then understand that Kim was a way better friend and indeed played a vital role in Mia’s life.
Mia and her mysterious Adam
The Adam in the book was somehow mysterious, very romantic, and so handsome. The Adam in the movie was just romantic.
There were many romantic gestures Adam did for his girlfriend –the Juilliard replica ceiling at Mia’s bedroom, the sucking of bee sting out of her hand, the bracelet adorned with both a cello and a guitar, and the song composition — all nowhere to be found in the book. These scenes were created to hype Adam’s love for his girlfriend. Though romantic, still, the movie appeared to be mainly about a teenage love, when in fact, it was way more beyond that. And for me, nothing would beat when Gayle Forman illustrated how Adam and Mia used to airplay each other and move their bodies to the imaginary rhythm of their song.
Mia and her decision to stay
“Don’t make me write a song,” said Adam in the book. This was one of the most romantic lines of Adam that made him Adam — sweet and vulnerable. In the movie, though, he took out his guitar and sang for Mia. And after a few happy flashbacks, Mia opened her eyes. She decided to stay.
Gayle’s approach though was far more different from Shauna’s. Mia squeezed Adam’s hand when she went back into her body.
The decision of Gayle to make Adam decide not to write a song for Mia clearly illustrated how much he wanted to make the character of Adam consistent with the Adam he created from the beginning. Adam loves Mia. And if Mia doesn’t wake up, Adam would feel compelled to write a song about his love for her. But if she would wake up, he wouldn’t feel the need to, because she would already know that he loves her a lot.
The decision of Shauna to make Adam decide to write and sing for Mia showed how much Hollywood barged in and glamorized everything to make the flick a certified manipulative tear-jerker.
the glamorized Hollywood version
Flashbacks were helpful, mostly showing snippets of Mia’s interaction with her loved ones all escalating from the mundane to the sublime. Gayle, as I view it, had more compelling and elaborate flashbacks. And what made me love the book more was because of Gayle’s consistent messaging. If I Stay is a novel for the young adult that focuses on the challenges of youth, but not specifically centering only to love. The movie adaptation though made some twists to create a new sad and predictable teenage love story.
Also, I hated it when Hollywood glamorized everything. For one, the car accident scene with Mia waking up to a thick blanket of snow was so Hollywood. Where were the “pieces of my father’s brain on the asphalt” or “mom’s eyes completely red, like a ghoul from a low-budget monster movie?” Even readers could picture the car accident scene as something very brutal — ” the car wasn’t even a car anymore but a metal skeleton, without seats, without passengers” — which, I believe, was very crucial to create an impression, but was lacking in the movie.
More than three years after the dramatic decision of Mia to stay — but not with him–Adam continues his career as a punk rock. And I am to know more as I flip the pages of “Where She Went”, the sequel to the new York times bestseller “If I Stay.”