On the surface this film may seem like a typical teen romance full of clichés, but the story goes much deeper than that. Dealing with both love and death in profound ways, The Fault in Our Stars is full of wise words and emotional scenes. Shailene Woodley proves once again that she is a talented actress, and her Divergent brother Ansel Elgort shines as her love interest.
Hazel Grace Lancaster (Woodley) is a normal 17-year old girl, except that she pulls an oxygen tank around with her and faces the threat of her impending death on a daily basis. Her strength of character, intelligence, and determination attract the attention of Augustus Waters (Elgort) during a cancer support group session.
A former cancer patient with an amputated leg, Augustus is there to support his friend Isaac (Nat Wolff) who has lost one eye to cancer and will soon lose the other. Augustus has the kind of smile that makes you feel like he knows a secret about you, and his brazen confidence and charm attract Hazel right away.
The first conversation between Hazel and Augustus is beautifully written and sets the tone for their relationship. When Augustus pulls out a cigarette and puts it in his mouth, Hazel is disgusted and says that he’s ruined everything. He explains that he never lights the cigarette: “It’s a metaphor, you see. You put the killing thing right between your teeth, but you never give it the power to do its killing.”
Augustus has the kind of smile that makes you feel like he knows a secret about you.
Hazel and Gus bond over Hazel’s favourite novel, An Imperial Affliction by Peter Van Houten. The book doesn’t exist outside the film, but I hope someone decides to write something based on it because it sounds like it would be a compelling story. The protagonist of the novel also has cancer, and the book ends mid-sentence as she dies.
Hazel and Gus relate to the book’s themes, and Gus loves to quote one of its lines: “That’s the thing about pain — it demands to be felt.” Just as the pain of their situations demands to be felt, the book demands that they seek out answers to its ending. Gus manages to secure a meeting with the author in Amsterdam, and they embark on an adventure.
While in Amsterdam, Hazel realizes how deeply she’s fallen in love and describes it beautifully: “I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly and then all at once.” Gus, never afraid of freely expressing his emotions, has a beautiful monologue where he declares his feelings: “I’m in love with you, and I know that love is just a shout into the void, and that oblivion is inevitable, and that we’re all doomed and that there will come a day when all our labor has been returned to dust, and I know the sun will swallow the only earth we’ll ever have, and I am in love with you.”
At times, it may seem like their relationship is unrealistic, but the characters are so endearing and played so well by Woodley and Elgort that the exaggeration doesn’t detract from the film. Focusing on the love between Hazel and Gus, this film manages to deal with what may seem like dark, depressing themes while remaining uplifting and humorous.
One of my favourite scenes involves Hazel, Gus, and Isaac delivering revenge to Isaac’s ex-girlfriend in the form of an egging. Despite everything that these teenagers are going through, they are still teenagers who want to have a little fun.