A 17 year old cancer sufferer meets a boy named Augustus Waters.
Based on the 2012 novel by John Green, The Fault in Our Stars is an intense focus on the very star-crossed romance of two young terminal cancer patients played by Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort. But it’s not a story about two kids staring into eachothers eyes while they waste into shared oblivion. TFIOS is a tale about life.
Augustus and Hazel are alive and vital in a way we’re rarely used to seeing in any kind of film, let alone just those dealing with the infirm. Their conversations zing, their thoughts percolate and explode. They want to live the life they have with as much energy as possible, and manage to do so in a way that most avoids cloying cliché.
It’s an engaging inversion on the tropes of the sick-kid sub-genre and its more than enough to bring serious entertainment value to the Josh Boone helmed feature. Illness is a theme certainly but there’s also bags of humour with some great verbal gags and a few lessons on the way which might even teach a thing or two to older audience members.
Of course when TFIOS punts for the emotional jugular it really goes all in. I’ve never experienced the same level of audience sobbing in a movie theatre before, ranging from choked-off keening and sniffles to all out shuddering tear-storms. This story was never going to end happily so be warned, its one of the more powerful examples of vicarious loss I’ve seen.
For the most part, Boone manages to vary the tone enough to keep us on board – from happy to sad to melodrama via acerbic wit. And there are plenty of references for fans of the book to enjoy, without alienating new viewers.
It’s an efficient adaptation then, but not without its problems. Boone handles some scenes with care and subtlety but others are jammed together hastily and lose their effect. He totally fluffs a museum moment (one of the highlights of the book), bogging the scene down in awkward sentimentality. There’s a real lack of depth to the supporting characters as well, leading to a sense of the leads as being more isolated than they should be.
On the performances, Woodley makes for a pretty perfect Hazel Grace Lancaster. While she might look a tad too healthy she’s got an easy mix of wit and vulnerability and works to sell every moment of humour and hamartia.
Elgort certainly looks the part and sells a mix of smugness and sweetness that works for Augustus but rarely manages to match his smarts. The wordy dialogue sometimes gets the better of the young performer, making him a little less cool than the character should be.
But TFIOS is a more than worthy adaptation which will provide an excellent introduction to the world for non-fans and plenty to admire for those familiar with the book. With a mix of drama and witty humour it’s a highly entertaining film that’s also practically guaranteed to wrench a few tears from all but the most cynical sorts.
Read our comparison between the book and the film here.