I’ll be honest. I am not a romance person. I don’t like romance novels, let alone movies. But I thoroughly enjoyed “The Fault in Our Stars” – as both a novel and a film.
Hazel Lancaster (Shailene Woodley) was diagnosed with cancer at 13. Augustus Waters (Ansel Elgort) lost a leg to cancer and is in remission at the beginning of the film. But the plot isn’t about cancer – it’s about life.
I know that sounds pretentious, unwieldy and not all that interesting. However, the movie is just the opposite. It’s entertaining because Hazel and Augustus are believable teenagers. They deal with hardship and pain just like any other teenager would. The audience sees them struggle with the reality of illness while slowly falling in love.
And they do so like two teenagers, not two sick kids. They are awkward, emotional and, at times, stupid. That’s what is most enjoyable. Neither of them are perfect and that’s what makes them real.
Even though I have never had direct experience with terminal illness, I strongly identify with Hazel. Woodley’s and Ansel’s performances are amazing. They truly embody the characters and make you feel for them. I would be surprised if neither of them are nominated for an Oscar or Golden Globe. They performances are so earth-shattering that you can’t help the tears.
The movie is a young adult novel adaptation, but unlike others, it succeeds as a film. In my experience, extensive voiceover tends to detracts from what’s happening onscreen. That is not the case with this movie. It only works to bring you closer to Hazel. As the film progresses, the voiceover becomes more and more immersive. The action on-screen is just as compelling. There were a few small tweaks to the story, and a couple plot weaknesses, but these did not detract from the overall enjoyment of the film.
The audience lives through Hazel’s and Augustus’s experiences with them. We feel what they feel, which is honest, raw emotion. This movie isn’t like other cancer stories. It doesn’t glorify the illness, but neither does it demean it. The film just tells it like it is. It’s real.
“The Fault In Our Stars” is not your typical Nicholas Sparks romance. It’s not corny or gooey. It simply tells the truth. And that’s why it hurts.