Director: Josh Boone
Hazel (Woodley) is a cancer survivor, left with lungs that struggle to function normally. Forced to go to a support group by her parents (Dern & Trammell), she meets the charismatic and charming Augustus (Elgort) whose previous battle with the disease meant he lost a leg. Hazel, who has been battling depression for years, reluctantly befriends him, while he makes no attempt to hide his crush on her. In an attempt to get to know each other better, the pair swap favourite books, meaning that Augustus reads a novel about cancer. Seeing how much the book means to her, he arranges for Hazel and he to travel to Amsterdam, where they meet the author (Dafoe), who isn't exactly what they expected.
Often a teenage romance can seem trite and pedestrian on film. Is there anything more cringeworthy than watching teenagers declare love for each other, when you know that twelve months down the line they'll realise they weren't actually in love and go their separate ways? I find it frustrating that movies like the Twilight franchise instil the belief that teenagers will meet the loves of their lives at sixteen, because the reality is far from that 99% of the time. But that earnestness, for once, is justified here. Both characters know that there is a high probability that one or both of them may die very soon, and as such their words are underlined with an urgency that doesn't seem contrived or OTT. This may well be their only love. They may well be together when they die. They are forced to deal with the realities of disease that most people only have to deal with later in life and their teenage vigour and innocence makes it all the more heartbreaking. On the one hand The Fault In Our Stars delights you with allowing doomed characters to experience happiness when they thought there would be none, but on the other, its hand is permanently tugging at the rug, waiting to pull it from beneath their feet.
I was put off by its mainstream accessibility, but I guess that's what makes this film work. By making its characters so relatable and normal, the audience feel this "love" all the more. While it's nothing monumental or groundbreaking, it is mass-produced emotion for the masses that doesn't drift into the territory of forcing us to cry at gunpoint. Beyond the tears, the oxygen tubes and the twinklings of young love, this has a touching and entertaining story at its centre, which at the end of the day, is all the biggest component of any film, right?