Directed by Josh Boone (Fox 2000 Pictures, 2014)
There’s no getting around it: This is a movie about kids with cancer. It’s going to make you cry. But The Fault In Our Stars is also going to make you laugh. And, even though it’s an adaptation of a young adult novel, this movie will touch you whether you are young, old, or somewhere in between.
Hazel Grace Lancaster (Shailene Woodley) and Augustus Waters (Ansel Elgort) are two teenagers who meet in a cancer support group. Outwardly, the plot traces their journey to meet the reclusive author of their favorite book, who lives in Amsterdam. But really the film is a story about life, love, and loss.
Hazel is consumed with trying to limit the amount of emotional damage that her terminal diagnosis will eventually inflict on others. In the background, we subtly see the pain carried by Hazel’s parents, played superbly by Laura Dern and Sam Trammell. But as Hazel learns, all the people she is worried about hurting consider it a privilege to have been hurt by her.
Fans of the best-selling book by John Green will appreciate the incredible accuracy to the novel’s details and dialogue. Hazel’s narrative wit, so central to the story’s tone, comes across through the use of voiceovers. And while watching Woodley and Elgort bring beloved characters to life is a perk for those already familiar with their tale, there’s no need to have read the book beforehand to be able to appreciate what’s going on, unlike in other recent YA adaptations.
The Fault In Our Stars is an honest movie. Hazel herself corrects her mother at one point, noting that it’s not a situation of “if” she dies, but rather “when.” No one is going to escape life unhurt, but just because we experience pain doesn’t mean we have to live without joy. And as you come to the end of the movie, you may just find yourself smiling through the tears.
This article appeared in the August 2014 issue of U.S. Catholic (Vol. 79, No. 8, page 42).