The Fault in Our Stars Review
Shailene Woodley gets sick in The Fault in Our Stars
Painting a touching and original portrait of young love is hard enough to achieve these days, but balancing it against a backdrop of slow-burning death-by-cancer is surely nearly impossible.Not for the creators of The Fault in Our Stars. Whilst still ultimately striking many of the same familiar notes that just about every romcom these days has to offer – that same well-trodden, cliché-ridden formula – the sheet music is distinctly different this time around. We are immediately introduced to the ticking time-bomb that is the protagonist, Shailene Woodley’s Hazel Grace Lancaster, who has managed to prolong her cancer-ridden life thanks to some experimental treatments, but who doesn’t quite know how to live a life that she knows is likely to be cut tragically short with little notice. She meets Augustus Waters at a cancer group; he’s 12 months’ clear, but it cost him a leg in the process. And he’s immediately smitten by Hazel, seeing past her oxygen tank and doomed, protective outlook, and determined to inject some fun back into her life.Director Josh Boone’s adaptation of Author John Green’s novel (Green himself was reportedly very involved in the making of the film) certainly doesn’t hold back in terms of its emotional exploitation; skipping plucking on the heart-strings and aiming to pull your beating heart right out of your chest. Yet for all the heavy-handed tactics that, in any other film, would be written-off as sickly-sweet, The Fault in Our Stars manages to retain the sense of genuine tragedy and palpable loss. It’s not just playing you, it’s actually kind-of telling you how it is. Teens dealing with death – often their own – is going to be something raw and emotional and heavy-handed. You can’t reason with cancer, and the philosophical quests that the duo go on here (assisted by a painfully good cameo by Willem Dafoe) reveal surprisingly thoughtful insight into mortality, giving you something to think about long after the credits have rolled.
Although there’s no denying that The Fault in Our Stars owes a debt to the classic Love Story, its updating of the material for a modern generation is commendable, giving us strong performances (which is a welcome relief after Woodley’s standout contribution to The Descendants was derailed by her wooden involvement in Divergent) and a worthy subject-matter which will likely elicit an emotional response through genuine tragedy, rather than manufactured circumstance.
Far from a perfect gem, it sparkles with promise and there’s much to recommend about a film which could easily be written off as just another teen romcom.
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