Gayle Forman’s YA novel If I Stay was adapted into a film with darling, 17-year-old actress Chloe Grace Moretz as the main character Mia. Mia is a cellist that wants to go to Juilliard. She’s quiet, she’s basically like every cellist you’ve met, but more charming. When talking to Forman and Moretz, they jointly spoke about the production experience as Forman was heavily involved in the process as Executive Producer.
Walking into their suite of the Ritz Carlton Downtown (shout out for the smoked salmon bagel, which I anxiously shoved in my mouth two hours before our meeting) I’m met by who I assume are Chloe’s “people.” It’s a celebrity thing, I don’t know. A man is in Mick Jagger-esque clothing, a trucker hat, with long hair and a full beard. A woman with a beautiful handbag says, “There’s a Barney’s right next to where we are.” The man responds, “we’re going, we’re going, yes.” I covered my unshaven legs with my less impressive handbag. Dear sweet baby Jesus, make me cooler and give me a paycheck.
The movie is a series of lengthy flashbacks and the present which includes her family in a tragic car accident and their struggle, including Mia’s, for recovery in the hospital. While in the hospital there was Mia’s physical body and then her spirit which no one else could see. Moretz says she didn’t have much of a reaction to “her” comatose body in a hospital bed kept alive by a ventilator, because it was just some girl as her double.
Moretz says they filmed the hospital scenes in an abandoned insane asylum and during off time she’d do her homework in an empty hospital room. She’d worked 12 hour days and then would do her geometry homework. Which makes for an awesome Common App college essay and a shitty social life. Moretz says she’s planning on taking two gap years before starting college because she’s never been able to act without having schoolwork to finish on the side. She wants to attend NYU, UCLA, or USC film school.
The flashbacks in the movie include falling in love with talented lead singer and guitarist Adam (Jamie Blackley) who’s in an up-and-coming band. If you’ve ever dated a guy in a band, if you tend to go for the bad boys, if you’ve never dated a guy in the band but have fantasies, if you’re currently married to an accountant that dry cleans his underwear- you get my point – go see this movie for Adam. He’s passionate, vulnerable, and exudes swagger when he does that cheeky hair flip. Forman says Adam was inspired by her husband, and as her website says, “no you cannot meet him.” She doesn’t see herself in Mia but admits some of the romantic moments and lines in the book/movie were drawn from their life together.
The younger cast members spent a majority of their time together while filming, not because they were forced to, but they really enjoy being around each other. They went ice skating when they weren’t supposed and got in trouble after they posted a video on Twitter. Moretz says in reality they’re all just theater geeks, including Blackley. Forman says Chloe Moretz and Jamie Blackley have great chemistry. Moretz rolls her eyes and says, “we’re good friends.” And it’s high school all over again.
This is not entirely a teeny-bopper movie. Besides falling in love with an older guy in the band and going to his concerts while he picks you out of the crowd and coyly serenades you – there’s a lot of death. It’s emotionally draining. One moment you’re watching the couple kiss and profess their love to each other – cut scene – it’s her father’s mutilated body and the imposing beep of an EKG. Still, it’s geared towards a younger crowd. Although, I’d also recommend it to those in a rocky relationship. There’s something about imagining your significant other comatose after a near fatal car accident that makes you appreciate them. If that hypothetical situation evokes nothing from you reevaluate your relationship or yourself -seriously.
If you’re a crier, bring tissues or wear a long shirt to wipe your face on. My maxi dress worked splendidly. There’s so much sadness it eventually turns into anger because of the immense sadness. Which is exactly how Moretz explains the filming process. She says that you become so close to the actors that continually seeing them die off is emotionally taxing, especially since they fly home afterwards, so they actually feel dead.
If I Stay is in theaters this weekend and the book is available here.