You Are Going to Ship Mia and Adam So Hard After You See If I Stay
WE CAME, WE SAW, WE ALMOST DETACHED OUR TONSILS TRYING NOT TO CRY. You, Sparklers, are going to love If I Stay, which arrives barefoot in theaters this Thursday night. SEEING THIS MOVIE IS A CHOICE THAT IS GOING TO MAKE YOU. *chops onions for potluck dinner*
For those of you who haven't read Gayle Forman's best-selling novel, the film introduces us to Mia (Chloe Grace Moretz), a talented 17-year-old cellist from an Oregon family of punk rockers whose tidy world goes from "My boyfriend is my cello" to "HOO BOY, the rockstar senior is coming my way." Adam (Jamie Blackley) is the rockstar, a guy who is "already the person he's meant to be," a self-assured musician who introduces a bit of chaos as they each navigate their first adult relationship ("Life is a gigantic stinking mess, but that's the beauty of it" advises Mia's mom, Kat (Mireille Enos)). The clash of Mia's East Coast Julliard aspirations and "inconvenient"* love for Adam becomes life-altering when Mia is involved in a fatal car crash with her family, and finds herself in a spiritual limbo, standing guard by her comatose body in the hospital, tasked with deciding whether to stay or go.
BOOK READERS: you are going to love this movie to pieces. EVERYONE ELSE: Read on, there are no spoilers in this review.
Where The Fault in Our Stars focused on making the most of small infinity with twinkly shared moments and grateful, shallow breaths, If I Stay shows us a teen relationship that is very, very realistic (if you are lucky enough to have Jamie Blackley come strolling down your school hall declaring "I CHOOSE YOU!").** Mia is half ready to rip Adam's shirt off and half terrified of being in a big-r-Relationship and the uncharted territory that his glistening chestals represent. As a couple, they have good moments (with a big gesture or two), and they have hissy fits; they worry about fitting in with each other's friends, and they worry about how they fit with each other. (Cue the guitar + cello bracelet that I waaannntttt.) You are going to paste reams of these two all over your walls after you see them, so go out and get a) a bucket, b) paste, and c) posters. I'm not sure how to ship them, but let's go with MIADAM until someone comes up with something better.
LIKEWISE, the parents in this film are so, so good. Kat and Denny (Joshua Leonard) are former punk rockers, and they've kept up real identities after becoming parents/YA book characters. Mia is keenly aware of the pragmatism it took them to quit touring and settle down with somewhat boring jobs so they can raise their kids and enjoy a life of Sunday potluck dinners and Adirondack chairs. Mia listens to her dad's old albums, and shrinks back from the wild ACTUALLY VINTAGE wardrobe of her former-groupie-but-still-leopard-print-wearing mom. The advice they dispense to her is the opposite of Disney Channel: "Either way you win. And either way you lose," Kat tells Mia after a rough night with Adam, in a scene that shows these aren't the kind of parents to shield their kids from the world, but rather give them any tools they have about the house—or, heck, trade in a prized drum kit—so they will be able to handle it.
It's so important that the filmmakers got this right, because when we get to the "sad clapping of hard metal cutting into soft trees," you are aware of just how much Mia is losing with the deaths of family members, but also the deliberate way her parents brought her up. Mia's choices are all hers, even before the crash, and you know, in a sense, that her parents have finished "raising" her. Unlike some YA stories, this one gives full respect to its teens; there are no choosing ceremonies, no silly futuristic uniforms, just the burden of complete free choice and the gaping world beyond high school.
This brings me to the MUSIC. It says a lot about Gayle Foreman's writing chops that she could pull off a book that relies on music for some of its big plot points, and the various musical threads just about annihilate you in the film. Chloe Grace Moretz is able to show us what it feels like for Mia to play the cello, and connect to classical music (she trained for seven months on the cello), and she is more than matched by Jamie Blackley, who sings for Willamette Stone (a name change from the book), an up-and-coming Portland band whose biggest gig is to open for the Shins (another change). The moment where their different styles come together in the INCREDIBLE full-cast cover of the Smashing Pumpkins' "Today," really brings it all home. Chloe told us they tried several old punk songs for the jam session, but it is totally inconceivable that they would have chosen anything but this song, which epitomizes the Pacific North West's punk legacy, the '90s (which define Mia's parents), and those special, fleeting moments where everything comes together. Trust me, people are going to be flocking to buy cellos (and banjos) after this. *air cello riff*
Lastly, the rest of the cast are BONKERS GOOD. Liana Liberato smashes it as Kim, the best friend, shown with a camera but given limited (important) time on screen, Jakob Davies boils your heart over a stove as Mia's adorable little brother, Teddy, Gramps (Stacy Keach) is there to sautee some finely chopped onions at a crucial moment in the film, and Liz is brought to red-headed life by Ali Milner.
In the end, the film does such a fantastic job of showing us loving parents and friends that it's incredibly hard to choose between them.
SEE THIS MOVIE:
- If you like music
- If you like beanies
- If you loved the book!
- If you like boxing-glove-to-the-heart love stories
- If you like our girl Chloe
- If you are ready to fall in dangly haired curly-brunet love with Jamie Blackley and his VOICEEE
- If you want to see a young adult movie that lets its characters be real, grown people
Gaaaaahhhhh. Just go see it!
*Inconvenient because seventeen is young where hinging your future on a relationship is concerned
**I TOLD YOU you were going to fall hard for Jamie, and YOU DIDN'T LISTEN.
Are you pumped for this weekend, when you will be able to cry your VERY OWN TEARS in your local theater?