Based on the New York Times bestselling novel by John Green, “The Fault in Our Stars” isn’t a typical tale of adolescent romance. Rather, it is a heart-wrenching love story that follows the relationship between two cancer-stricken teenagers.
Terminally ill Hazel Grace Lancaster (played by Shailene Woodley), the narrator of the story, was diagnosed with thyroid cancer at the tender age of 13. Now, at the age of 17, she has difficulty breathing on her own and relies on a portable oxygen tank at all times. She has few friends, by choice, and spends her days reading and watching reality television with her lovingly concerned parents.
After attending a support group for young cancer patients, Hazel meets Augustus Waters (Ansel Elgort). Augustus, or Gus, is a strikingly handsome 18-year-old who lost his right leg to osteosarcoma and is currently in remission. Despite this, he is a confident and witty young man whose only wish is to be remembered by his loved ones.
Hazel and Gus form an immediate bond that leads to a very flirtatious friendship. It’s clear that Gus longs to be more, but Hazel is afraid of advancing their relationship since her future is so uncertain.
Hazel introduces Gus to her favorite novel “An Imperial Affliction,” about a teenage girl with cancer. The novel ends in the middle of a sentence, however, and Hazel is desperate to know what happens to the characters. As a surprise, Gus contacts the author of the novel, Peter Van Houten (Willem Dafoe) who lives in Amsterdam, and arranges for Hazel, her mom and him to make the trans-Atlantic trip to speak with Van Houten. What follows is a tremendously emotional journey through this pair’s tragic yet wonderful relationship.
As a film, “The Fault in Our Stars” does an impressive job of staying loyal to the plotline of the book. Some scenes, especially the very last one, are nearly word-for-word. There are a few details that are left out, but this allows the film to focus entirely on the relationship between Gus and Hazel.
Directed by Josh Boone, whose first directorial project was the independent romantic comedy-drama “Stuck in Love,” “The Fault in Our Stars” accurately portrays a modern-day teenage relationship. Despite the added complications of the plot, the cute bedtime text messages and an awkward yet poignantly honest “first time” scene make it a relatable watch for the audience, connecting you even more with the trials of these two teenagers.
Woodley and Elgort both perform tremendously as ill teenagers. Through painful grimaces and heartbreaking sobs, the young actors do an incredible job of convincingly portraying teenage cancer patients who handle their illnesses with maturity well beyond their years.
However, at times, Elgort does appear to over-act, rattling off his lines in a somewhat unnatural manner. Considering he is playing Gus, a complex and sensitive character, at the start of his acting career, this aspect can be excused. Since the film features a number of well-known actors such as Willem Dafoe and Laura Dern, Elgort’s inexperience can be easily overlooked.
Particularly noteworthy is the film’s soundtrack, which includes tracks by Lykke Li, Grouplove, Ed Sheeran and STRFKR, among others. It even features a genuine Swedish rap song, just like the one Van Houten describes in his novel, by the Swedish hip-hop group Afasi & Filthy.
Definitely prepare for an emotional two hours. Although audible laughter frequently emitted from the audience during the film, it came along with equally audible sniffles and sobs. Although the ending may seem obvious, ”The Fault in Our Stars” is sure to tug at the heartstrings of all who watch it, whether they’ve read the novel or not.