Hazel and Gus are two teenagers who share an acerbic wit, a disdain for the conventional, and a love that sweeps them on a journey. Their relationship is all the more miraculous given that Hazel’s other constant companion is an oxygen tank, Gus jokes about his prosthetic leg, and they met and fell in love at a cancer support group.
The Fault in Our Stars is an enjoyable and moving film about two young people with cancer, starring Divergent duo Shailene Woodley (Hazel) and Ansel Elgort (Augustus) in the main roles. The film is based on a best selling novel and comes to cinemas with high expectations , and based on its initial success in the US, it seems to have been well received. It’s easy to see why – this is a well intentioned story about a difficult subject that overcomes some of its poorer choices through strong acting and a lead duo that the audience can root for. That’s largely down to Woodley and Elgort, who make their characters likable and relatable, and they make their love for each other feel real. Woodley has shown her range previously in roles in Divergent and The Descendants, but this was the first starring role of Elgort’s I’d seen, and his effortless charisma and chemistry with Woodley marks him out as one to watch.
That being said, the film isn’t without its problems, largely down to the arc in Amsterdam which features a truly terrible scene at the Anne Frank museum which attempts to compare the suffering of cancer victims with holocaust victims. It’s undoubtedly well intentioned, but it comes across as very false, and having the couple’s first kiss at this moment (with clapping tourists) is a very misguided choice from the director. The other issue during this sequence is the meeting with Peter Van Houten (played well by Willem Dafoe), a writer who wrote a book on cancer that Hazel considers her favourite. Van Houten is a grouchy alcoholic who didn’t want the visit in the first place, but there’s no justification given for his animosity, and his outburst against cancer victims feels more like a plot point to generate some antagonistic outrage than a real aspect of the character. This scene plays a little better when we hear from Van Houten later, but as it stands, it’s a clumsy scene which is a shame as Dafoe does his best with the part.
The rest of the support are solid, with Laura Dern the pick of the bunch as Hazel’s mother, channelling a lot of her character Amy from the underrated HBO dramedy ‘Enlightened’. For a depressing subject matter, the film manages to find some gallows humour in the situation, and I laughed more than I expected too throughout. Another positive point is some good musical choices throughout, both in terms of score and popular songs. Overall, this is a film that could have played as overly sentimental, but a couple of mishaps aside, this is a moving piece of cinema that succeeds due to its likable leads and a strong script that unfolds nicely.
Directed By: Josh Boone
Starring: Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort, Laura Dern, Nat Wolff, Sam Trammell, Lotte Verbeek and Willem Dafoe