What’s It About? The Fault in Our Stars adapts John Green’s story of two teenagers, Hazel (Shailene Woodley) with thyroid cancer and Augustus (Ansel Elgort) with osteosarcoma, who together with three legs and one and a half pairs of working lungs, ultimately fall in love. It will most definitely make you cry, but rather than being a tragic story about people suffering from an incurable disease, it will leave you teary eyed, because of the beautiful messages it conveys.
Verdict: Almost every review written since the release of The Fault in Our Stars in the US will tell you how much of a tearjerker it is. Instead of wiping away a tear here and there, it left whole audiences sobbing their way through the film, from beginning to end. Even if you intend not to, even if you don’t usually cry in movie theaters, no matter if you’ve read the novel or not, you’re almost certainly going to cry watching the story of Hazel and Augustus.
It’s a sad story and at the same time it’s not. Of course, it’s bound to be about death, but it’s just as much about life. At its core stands the message that a short life can also be a fulfilled life, with romantic, happy, humorous and glorious moments. It puts emphasis on the fact that not every teenage cancer patient has to be defined by their sickness. They have the sickness and not the other way around, that the sickness has them.
While experimental drug treatments keep Hazel’s cancer at bay, it has already metastasised to her lungs long before, making an oxygen tank and a cannula her daily companion. It’s when her mother forces her to attend the painfully Christian support group taking place in the community centre, also often called ‘the literal heart of Jesus’, that she meets Augustus. After the amputation of his right leg, he is cancer-free and has been in remission for about a year and a half. He’s the overly confident boy, seemingly ahead of his age and to who thetypical troubles of growing up don’t even faze him. When he boldly stares at Hazel, not breaking eye contact and later is the one to talk to her, simply stating “you’re beautiful“ out of nowhere, they immediately have a connection.
Ansel Elgort is the perfect match for the role of witty Augustus, delivering all the well-loved quotes from the bestselling book smoothly. No doubt his smile will make teenage girls all around the world fall in love with him just like Hazel does, but Ansel Elgort also manages to grasp the depth of his character and gives a genuine portrayal. Shailene Woodley is an equally brilliant Hazel, translating her character’s sarcastic and realistic world view to the big screen. Her performance is brutally honest and touching all at once. The whole film has been cast flawlessly, with the supporting cast from Laura Dern in the role of Hazel’s mother and Sam Trammell as her sensitive father to Nat Wolff as their amusing friend Isaac and every small role adds to the film.
And so a sweet love story evolves – maybe a bit too sweet. Some moments seem too cheesy or even unbelievable, for example when people randomly start clapping after the couple’s first kiss. However, many of these are taken directly from the novel and it’s exactly as the author intended things to happen. While they may work in literary form, on the big screen it can be a little too much at times. The cute drawn speech bubbles, which continue popping up on screen, when the teenagers text, message and email each other, don’t really make it better either. That the movie is shot in the brightest colours also makes everything look more glossy and less real, but the symbolism is clear – the film looks like any ordinary rom-com and shows the normalcy of a life with cancer.
The screenwriters Scott Neustadter and Michael Weber did a great job in adapting the novel to a two-hour film. The script rarely misses out on any of the fans’ favourite quotes and nearly all of the important scenes are included – especially those of a romantic kind. It’s an amazing translation from the page to the screen, no doubt. While John Green’s novel purposely portrays the main characters as normal teenagers, who don’t let their illness define them, but which inevitably still takes up a lot of their time, this seems to have almost vanished from the movie adaptation. It’s the little moments that actually deal with living with the disease that are missing. As part of their daily life, Augustus does ask Hazel for her ‘real’ story, not her ‘cancer’ story and they laugh about so-called ‘cancer perks’. However, the gravity of their sickness feels belittled to understandably make room for the more important scenes. This results in the film coming to an end way too fast, and even though the audience will be mentally prepared for the inevitable, there are some abrupt changes and the audience is given too little time to process what’s happening towards the end.
Final words: There has to be a fair warning that the movie might make you cry countless times, but at the same time it might also be one of the most beautiful films out this year. What will stay with you long after the film, is not the sadness, but the wonderful characters portrayed by a talented young cast and their outlook on life and the world. Saying it in Augustus’ ambiguous words, the film is “a roller coaster that only goes up, my friend.”
The Fault In Our Stars is in UK cinemas today!