The Fault In Our Stars has been hailed as this summer’s major blockbuster, utterly unmissable and the one that everyone is talking about. We’ve all been warned that forgetting tissues would be a literal nightmare as the tale of two love-struck teens with terminal cancer will likely pull at the heartstrings of even the most stone cold.
Adapted from John Green’s novel of the same name, the story focuses on 16 year old Hazel (Shailene Woodley) who is living with terminal thyroid cancer that has spread to her lungs. Dealing with a subject as sensitive as teenage cancer instantly makes the film a difficult point for discussion, particularly if you have a negative view of the story Green is telling.
Hazel’s story, all depicted from her perspective, begins with her discussing the fact that she may be in a sort of depression, what she describes as a side effect of dying. The local support group that her parents force her to attend offers little solace, until she meets Augustus Waters (Ansel Elgort), who turns out to be the love of her life, changing her world completely as, predictably, he is the only possible solution to her melancholy. Augustus is the typical romanticised hero of the teen movie; he is pretty much a pretentious version of Edward Cullen. In fact, he seems to embody Cullen in some respects as his creepy stalker-like stare, the one that leads Hazel to become immediately attracted to him, could easily swerve the film from love story into the more slasher-style territory of the horror genre.
As the plot continues Hazel and Augustus fall very much in love and are inseparable, stimulating their minds through discussion of Hazel’s favourite novel, the fictitious ‘An Imperial Affliction’. This leads the pair on a trip to Amsterdam to search for the novel’s author Peter van Houten, arguably the best character, played brilliantly by Willem Dafoe, who brings malice and a sense of realism to be applauded.
The film sticks remarkably well to the original novel, quoting lines of dialogue directly from the book in an attempt to engage with Green’s characters. But, more a fault of Green’s writing than of the film itself, both the characters and the story offer nothing new and the plot twist toward the end of the narrative is uninventive and predictable. The most emotional and interesting scenes of the film come from conversations between Hazel and her parents (the fabulous Laura Dern and Sam Trammell), as they delve into the strains put upon a family who have nothing but love for their child and cannot stop the horrific inevitability that they will live to see her die.
Both Woodley and Elgort put in good performances too and it is no wonder that Woodley is being branded as the next Jennifer Lawrence. The pair cemented their strong on-screen relationship in Divergent, where they play siblings Tris and Caleb, and this follows on smoothly in The Fault In Our Stars. Nat Wolff also puts in a fantastic turn as the couple’s friend Isaac; one stand out scene of the entire movie involves him throwing eggs at the car of his ‘evil’ ex-girlfriend.
The film itself is slightly overrated, but its appeal to teenage fangirls is obvious. Despite its numerous flaws, The Fault In Our Stars is a decent film and worth a watch; to some its shortcomings may even be what draws them in. One word of advice though: try to get to the cinema at a time when 13 year old girls cannot. Emotional segments of the film cannot be fully appreciated, and cried at, when all you can hear is an adolescent sobbing like a seal in the row behind you.