The Fault in Our Stars

Nuggets of teen philosophy notwithstanding, this star-crossed YA romance feels authentic.
Tom Clift
Published on June 02, 2014


Few films feel as tailor-made for their audience as Josh Boone's adaptation of The Fault in Our Stars. Based on the enormously popular young adult novel by John Green, about two teen cancer patients who fall hopelessly in love, it's a story designed to play the heartstrings like a fiddle, extracting sighs and sobs from willing viewers with surgical precision. It's melodramatic, sure, but you'd be hard-pressed to deny its effectiveness. And thanks to a fantastic lead performance from Shailene Woodley, the sentiment never feels insincere.

Woodley plays Hazel Lancaster, a sarcastic 16-year-old with terminal tumours in her lungs. Hazel has more or less come to terms with the nature of her illness, but at the behest of her worried parents (Laura Dern and Sam Trammell) agrees to attend a patient's support group. It's there that she meets Augustus Waters (Ansel Elgort), an impossibly charming cancer survivor himself, who soon sets about sweeping her off her feet.

Despite Hazel's assertion that hers is not your typical cancer narrative, The Fault in Our Stars very much follows a formula. Viewers are promised tragedy, and then lulled into hoping that that tragedy might be averted. Peaks of joy are followed by valleys of strategically excavated sorrow, timed to cause maximum devastation.

Thankfully, Hazel is an endearing enough character that you don't really mind the film manipulating you. Pithy voiceover helps us get to know her as a funny, strong-willed young woman who makes the best of an awful situation. Woodley's performance is impeccable, capturing both the giddy excitement of young love and the sobering adult reality of death.

Her co-star falters with some of the heavier material but is still immensely likeable as Augustus. Admittedly, the young man isn't the most plausible of characters — no teenager is this articulate, no matter how much they'd like to believe otherwise. A lot of his dialogue is meant to sound wonderfully deep and inspiring but is just as likely to cause cringes in anyone over the age of about 17.

Nuggets of teen philosophy notwithstanding, the interactions between the characters generally feel authentic, with plenty of humorous banter to put the romance — and the heartache — into relief. It's thanks to Boone and company's balancing of the three that The Fault in Our Stars is a success.


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