There is a reason that I have not done any sort of write-up about If I Stay the movie, despite in what high favor I hold the book on which the movie was based. And, no, the reason is not that I was disappointed by the movie. The reason is simply that, even as a movie, this story remains immensely personal.
Looking back at my first post on the book back in 2010, I see that I compared it to reading a memoir because of how important Mia becomes to the reader. And I think this is Gayle Forman's power as a write: she can portray human emotion and human relationships with full, beautiful, and tragic power. But how do you take a text like that and put it on a screen? Isn't a screen something public and far away?
If I Stay was not a big release in theatres and the movie had a tiny budget. I do wish it had had more of a budget so that it could have had prettier cinematography or a more unifying score, things like that. But on the other hand, a small movie has power of its own. If the whole world isn't watching with you, you have the chance to be alone with the story and to let your reaction be your reaction only--like reading a book in silence.
So let me focus on what worked well in this movie. While I think there was more focus on Mia's relationship with Adam, there was still that family dynamic within the movie that I think is so scarcely portrayed well in either movies or TV. That in itself in entirely refreshing and endearing to see. And as far as Mia and Adam go, you know what I like best about their relationship? They have music in common because it is something so important to them both but they each focus on entirely opposite kinds of music. The inclusion of both Adam's rock band and Mia's cello music brought in exactly the right atmosphere because this is the music of the characters. I only wish there had been more of this music and less of the generic pop songs that were also part of the soundtrack.
After seeing the movie, I went on iTunes and bought most of the Willamette Stone (Adam's band) songs from the soundtrack. These are so well put together. The quality is designed to reflect where the band is at each point in time and the lyrics and sound go along with the plot and emotions of each moment, as well. Each song come to be so touching, in different and developing ways. First it is the story of young love and bright hopes for the future. Then it is struck by tragedy and seeks a new kind of joy, one that has surpassed all the physical pain of the world.