If I Stay – Movie Discussion
My friend asked me what I thought about the movie, and I didn’t know how to reply. I had very mixed feelings. I usually try to focus on the positive connections, but sometimes I think it’s best to deal with both the positive and the negative. Both provide opportunity for good discussion, for growth, and for understanding.
Conservative, cello playing Mia falls in love with a rocker named Adam and things are going beautifully until their music begins to take them in different directions. Adam’s band is based in Portland and is gaining rapid success. Mia realizes she has a chance to go to Julliard for college, which would be a dream come true but would also take her to the other side of the country, far away from Adam. As she is wrestling with whether she should stay or go, life catapults her into another similar quandary. Her family is in a car accident and she alone might survive, but she has to choose. She is lingering in limbo, in an out of body experience, trying to decide if she should fight to stay and live her life with Adam and her friends and extended relatives, or if she even wants to, knowing that it will be hard to face life as an orphan. Tough choices, to stay or to go—and the movie focuses on the struggle, the time spent in limbo, wrestling with the pull of two opposing forces.
Teenage sex. Sex outside of marriage troubles me wherever I see it, but I’m all the more disturbed by it when it’s teenagers. And even more so when it’s a sweet, little “good girl” and it’s her first time. Breaks. My. Heart. I know it’s just a movie, but I also know that millions of teenagers are going to see this movie (our little theater was filled with young girls the day I went), and they are going to love it. Worse, they are going to look up to Mia and want to imitate her in many ways. And to compound the problem, Mia has no moral hesitation, no questions, not a moment’s pause about having sex with Adam. It’s completely a given. It’s common. It’s not a big deal, either before or after.
I know this is the norm for many, maybe most teens, but it shouldn’t be. I know that it’s common, but is it common because we have all watched too many movies where we are getting a look into what should be private and we gaze upon it as if it something we ought to be participating in. Has it become common in reality because we have been told in fantasy that it should be common? I don’t know if Hollywood is the chicken or the egg. I suspect both. I suspect in some ways it mirrors life, and in others it leads the way, pushing our boundaries farther and farther.
The one thing I do know is that it isn’t good for us to fill our minds with sin. We can become numb to it. We can begin to agree with it. We can stop seeing it as sin. I am not saying we should lie about life, or resort to extremes and scare tactics, but that sin should be shown for what it is…sin. It shouldn’t be glorified. Mia and Adam are wonderful characters in so many ways, what if they had raised the standard for sexuality in high school, rather than lowered it? I know a lot of people who would tell me that if they had waited for marriage they wouldn’t have been real. That no one waits. But that’s a lie. Some do wait. And isn’t that the point of movies—to put before us the best stories, the best examples, the exceptions to the rules? Rudy, Invincible, Braveheart, Joan of Arc…and even fiction like Spiderman…the point isn’t that everyone becomes a football star or leads a national revolt, but that someone did. The pint isn’t that everyone becomes Spiderman, but someone did—and that is our hope. That’s what we look up to and aspire to be, not everyone, but that someone. So the point isn’t that everyone waits for marriage, they don’t. The point is that some do, and that should be the standard we aspire to, according to the Lord. I’m concerned that movies like If I Stay subtly influence us to believe the lies that God is both withholding something good from us by asking us to wait, and exaggerating the consequences of rebellion—the same lies Eve believe back in the garden.
So, that’s the negative, but it still gives you some great opportunity to have some discussions with those around you about how they feel about God’s plan for sex in marriage. Here are some questions to get you started:
- What did you think about Mia and Adam having sex? Was it realistic? Is this the way it is in your high school? Do you think Mia would have struggled with the decision to have sex with Adam? Or do you think she might have struggled with guilt after? Why or why not?
- What do you know about God’s plan for sex? What do you think (and/or feel) about God’s plan for sex? Do you think God’s plan for sex still applies today, or is it outdated and irrelevant? Why do you think that?
- Do you think that watching movies like If I Stay affects how you think about sex?
“Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.” Mia says. She had plans for her life, but as she was working on those plans, her life was interrupted. Interruptions are all throughout the Bible. No one gets through life without being interrupted, and it’s usually in those moments of interruption where God is most obviously at work. Saul, on his way to Tarsus, gets interrupted by God in a blinding light, ends up blinded for three days and his life is turned completely upside down. He gets a new name, a new religion, and a new mission. Joseph is dreaming about becoming the leader of his clan, but his older brothers interrupt those plans by tossing him in a pit and selling him as a slave. That interruption ended up being the first of many interruptions along his path to becoming the ruler of the land…interruptions which were more like diving chess moves, positioning Joseph just where God wanted him. The Bible is full of these stories.
- How has your life been interrupted? How did you respond?
- If God is a God of interruptions, then how can you look for God in the interruptions?
Mia was different. She was born to a family of rockers but she loved classical music—which meant she was odd at home and at school. She was quiet and thoughtful and often felt out of place. “I’ve always wondered if mom and dad were disappointed I didn’t turn out more like them.” She mused. She also wondered if Adam wished she was more like his rocker fans. Deep down, Mia asked the questions most of us ask (especially most of us women), “Am I a disappointment to you? Am I too much or not enough? Do you wish I was something different?” At the core, what Mia was really asking is, “Do you really love me, just as I am?”
You really can’t help but love Adam for the way he loves Mia. He is so patient, tender and understanding with her insecurities, and you know that you know that you know that he loves her. Fully. All of her. After a Halloween concert where Mia dressed like a rocker and tried to “let go” a little more than usual, she asked Adam if he liked that Mia and wishes she were that way more often. He responded, “I don’t [care] about your clothes, don’t you get it? The same you you are tonight is the same you you were yesterday…and I’m in love with all of it!” You may not be loved perfectly on this earth, but the reason Adam is so appealing is that he loves Mia the way Jesus loves us…all of us. He knows every part of us and He’s in love with all of it…and He is desperate for us to get it. He is desperate for us to allow ourselves to actually believe it—we are loved, fully, completely, madly and deeply.
- How do you identify with Mia in her questions about being a disappointment to her family?
- Do you struggle with feeling like you don’t fit in?
- Who loves you best on this earth?
- Do you know/trust/believe that Jesus loves you?
Along with being truly loved is the idea of being truly seen. Part of why Adam could love Mia so fully is that he saw her so fully. Even when she was trying to hide, Adam saw her. “You can’t hide in that rehearsal room. It’s too late. I see you.” Once he saw her, he loved her. The two go hand in hand. We cannot love something well until we see it, really see it. So there are two pieces to this—1. We resonate with the desire to be seen, and 2. We need to see others—because they need to be seen too, and because we need to see them if we are to love them, and God commands us to love others.
- Do you ever feel like no one, not even God, sees you? How does that make you feel? How would it make you feel if you knew that God always saw you, even when you wanted to hide?
- Have you had a time when you didn’t think anyone noticed you, and then found out that someone did see you, (like Adam seeing her when she was practicing her cello)? How did it make you feel to be seen?
- How good are you at really seeing the people around you? Do you take time to see them, to get to know them, to understand and to be aware of their struggles and their joys? Who do you know that needs to be seen (and to be loved) around you?