The Fault In Our Stars is a truly romantic film. They don’t make ‘em like this anymore. It’s been ages since we had one of these simple romances about two human beings. Love stories where people talk about *something* and not just speak in the language of sweet-nothings. For a film like this to work, it constantly keeps a check on one vital dosage: it makes us care for the lovers.
Augustus (Ansel Elgort) and Hazel Grace (Shailene Woodley) aren’t uncultivated dopey-eyed teenyboppers. She isn’t a bimbo who gets drunk and “takes pot”. Her bucket list does not include skydiving or losing her virginity. She wants to meet the writer of her favorite book. He isn’t a douche who has never read a book in his life. He actually has something to say about the things he likes. You know… an actual boy. Most importantly, they watch Aliens (1986) together. How romantic is that?
One of my film school professors told me once: a good story is a cliché well told. Director Josh Boone films the book by John Green (which I haven’t read) and never loses the essence of the core. It’s a formulaic film and I mean this as a compliment. It is a cross between the sadness of A Walk to Remember (2001) and Love Story (1970) with the sensitivity and puppy love from Splendor in the Grass (1961). There are also the "okays" from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004). It’s basically a teenage girl’s romantic fantasy: a witty good looker who is also a nice guy. When he appeared for the first time in the film, the theater I was in witnessed a loud shriek created by a bunch of teenagers. I don’t remember the last time I heard something like that. It was as if they all had just attained puberty right there in the theater. This is clever writing and casting to me, not just fluff.
Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort are imponderably likable. When you make a film about star-crossed lovers you can easily fall into the trap where they become annoying. Not here. These two carry the film on their shoulders and never let it slide. When there are veterans like Laura Dern and Willem Defoe holding fort, you can hardly go wrong. Ansel Elgort, who was previously seen in Carrie (2013) and Divergent (2014), holds his own and gets the laughs when he should. The film ultimately belongs to Shailene Woodley. She was a talent to behold when we saw her in The Descendants (2011) but here she is thoroughly endearing. A full-blown actress. She gives tough competition to a certain Miss Lawrence in the acting department. Oh yes, this performance is Oscar nomination material.
One aspect of the film I particularly loved is the soundtrack. It has young artists like Ed Sheeran, Birdy, Tom Odell, Jake Bugg, Kodaline and Charle XCX. My favorite song is Let Me In by Grouplove. If you haven’t discovered this indie band, start now. Also look up STRFKR while you’re at it. The Perks of Being A Wallflower (2012) was the last film where each song was brilliant. Although, it’s easier to handpick classic songs, it’s more difficult to get artists to sing mostly original songs and make each one stand out. Even when existing recent music is chosen, it is used beautifully. Wait by M83 is used twice in the film and on both occasions, it achieves a punch in the gut.
I haven’t mentioned one plot point till now on which the tragedy of the film rests. The central characters are cancer patients. The medical facets are delicately handled by Josh Boone. I didn’t cry as such but I cared about the two enough to be emotionally involved. The best tearjerkers are those where you cry because of the things the characters say about each other or to each other. You don’t need to show them suffering physically but it’s the emotional pain that does it. During the climax, there is one line about how much she would rate pain on a scale of 1 to 10. It’s heartbreaking. Utterly heartbreaking.
I would highly recommend The Fault in our Stars to every romantic. Don’t hold back the tears.view less