I will begin this review with the admittance that I have not read the famous novel of which this film is based, written by John Green, but I am familiar with the story and the amount of people that it moved, helped and charmed upon its release in 2012, and since.
The Fault in Our Stars is another beloved modern novel adapted to the screen due to its overwhelming popularity. Directed by Josh Boone, who had previously only been the director on one film, 2012’s Stuck in Love. With a bigger budget, a great cast and a vast amount of eyes and hearts awaiting his adaptation, I can confirm that The Fault in Our Stars is a marvellous film. Moving, heartbreaking, funny, charming and rich, it is a film that needed to be made, a story that needed to be adapted to the screen, and something that the creators and performers should be proud of.
We meet Hazel Grace Lancaster, a teenage girl with lung cancer who, through her devoted family and unrelenting strength of character, continues on the best she can even though she is depressed, in pain, and unable to breath well, causing her to need an oxygen tank constantly hooked up to her. When her parents and doctor urge her to go to a support group for young people suffering through various types of cancer, Hazel meets Augustus Waters, a cancer-survivor in remission who had his right leg removed in order to save his life. Augustus, or “Gus”, uses an interminable amount of humour and positive energy and he and Hazel Grace strike a friendship that grows into a deep and affectionate love for one another as they spend more and more time together. We follow these two strong characters as they deal with their illnesses, attempt to reassure and soften the blow for their devastated families, all the while falling in love despite Hazel’s reluctance to do so due to her feeling that she is a “grenade” bound to destroy all in her path one day.
There is plenty of humour in the film, a humour that is sensitive and feels realistic and authentic. This allows the film to be more than a story of sickness, but of life and joy and experiences that last a lifetime, regardless of how long that lifetime is. Shailene Woodley, as Hazel Grace, offers a performance filled with a beautiful agony and energy that shows why she is one of the most sought after young actresses around right now. Ansel Elgort, who plays Gus, brings charisma and a tangible poise that plays well against the character of Hazel. The two of them have a chemistry that is often missing from young adult films. The supporting cast, featuring Laura Dern and Sam Trammell as Hazel’s parents, Willem Dafoe as Hazel’s favourite author, Van Houten and Nat Wolff as Gus’s friend, Isaac, among others, do a wonderful job, creating a world that our two young leads inhabit with various opinions and feelings regarding each person they know.
The cinematography is gorgeous and uses shots of nature and the beautiful world that we often forget is surrounding us as a contrast to the terrible illness that is stalking our star-crossed lovers, and the soundtrack, featuring an array of calm and acoustic style offerings, works well, bringing a youthful vim as well as a moving hymn to the background of the story.
I was taken aback by the film at times, its portrayal of an illness that has likely effected most people on the planet in some form of another done with such profound accuracy. Its refusal to be a “film about cancer” but rather “a film about love involving two people who have suffered from cancer” is refreshing and appreciated. It is an intelligent and well written film that, while undoubtedly hard to watch at times, is really an accomplishment. I did wonder, in shards of moments, if perhaps the mere topic of the film would put some people off, a feeling that perhaps the inclusion of such a thing would be “depressing” and “too dark”, but it just isn’t the case, the film shows the darkness while allowing us to see the glare of a light beside it.
I left the cinema feeling a little sad, a little happy but definitely impressed by what I’d seen. It isn’t necessarily a film that I, personally, would watch on numerous occasions, but I will watch it again. I feel like the film offers a warm hand to young people who might be suffering through such a tribulation and stands quietly alone as a film of its kind. Poignant and encouraging, I recommend the film to anyone who has ever loved, anyone who has ever lost someone, and anyone who feels like the current era of film, with its lack of subtlety, is missing something sincere. Okay? Okay.