A tear jerking twist on the young adult trend, The Fault in our Stars, directed by Josh Boone, is a love story which takes place in horrible circumstances. Based on the novel by acclaimed novelist John Green, the film stars Shailene Woodley as Hazel Grace Lancaster, a cynical sixteen year old suffering from terminal thyroid cancer. After reluctantly attending a support group in order to please her parents, she meets and subsequently begins a relationship with teenage Augustus Waters, played by Ansel Engort, who is recovering from bone cancer after having his leg amputated. The same themes are explored as your ordinary teen romantic comedy, but with an underlying sadness as a black cloud looms over the star crossed lovers.
The girl-meets-boy element of the plot stays very much within our expectations, with subtle glances, long awaited text messages, the awkward meeting of the parents and terrible dialogue. Comic book-esque speech bubbles are used to represent the iMessages exchanged in an attempt to appear fresh and modern, but I felt it left it looking a little Nickelodeon. John Green wrote his book through Hazel’s perspective and her character is very well written. She is complex, funny, and translates credibly on screen as a sympathetic protagonist. Her narration provides a fascinating insight into her thoughts as she battles her demons. Augustus on the other hand is designed to be arrogant and cocky on first impression, before melting hearts with his profound wit and charm. Personally, I found him irritating, immature and his sense of humour was painfully out of date.
Hazel and Augustus share an interest in a fictional book called An Imperial Affliction by mysterious author Peter van Houten, as they can both identify strongly with his lead. This provides an interesting subplot where they seek out van Houten, who lives in Amsterdam in recluse, in search of answers to some unfinished questions. The city serves as a beautiful backdrop as the couple enjoy a weekend adventure to track down their inspiration. Willem Dafoe portrays the alcoholic writer and gives a shockingly strong performance, as his warped outlook on life highlights the harsh realities of Hazel’s grim situation.
The film is at its most powerful though when dealing with the Lancaster family dynamic, and scenes between mother and daughter are touching, despite the score being heavily engineered throughout to make audiences weep. Laura Dern puts in a highly experienced turn as her mother, trying to cope with the fact that her daughter will be taken away before her time. Woodley impresses and commands the film with ease, asserting herself as an actress in high demand off the back of her leading role in Divergent. Her performance alone makes the film worth seeing if you don’t mind having your heartstrings tugged to the point that they nearly break.