BY Jen T. Tuazon
Oh, this movie will hurt your heart.
Don’t worry, that wasn’t a spoiler. Sadness after all isn’t the only source of heartache. That is not to say you won’t feel sad watching The Fault in Our Stars, because you will. But you will feel other things, too, like joy and hope, and faith and love.
The Fault in Our Stars tells the story of how Hazel Grace Lancaster (Shailene Woodley), cancer stricken and lugging an oxygen tank wherever she goes, and Augustus Waters (Ansel Elgort), a cancer survivor walking on a prosthetic leg, meet, fall in love, and change each other’s lives. Directed by Josh Boone, the movie is an adaptation of John Green‘s best-selling young adult novel of the same name.
There’s a lot of things to love about The Fault in Our Stars, but the two on top of that list would be the actors’ performances–all solid; and the lines (direct quotations from the book or otherwise)–all memorable (Expect to see a lot of The Fault in Our Stars quotes in social media in the next days. And the hashtag: #TFIOS).
Leading the superb acting would be Shailene Woodley as Hazel Grace (who also narrates the film). I’ve only ever seen Woodley in two movies: The Descendants and The Spectacular Now, and in both she blew me away (as in Jennifer Lawrence levels). Woodley has a way of making the character she’s playing relatable, and she did it again here where she was Hazel Grace from start to finish, with every look, with every word. She is just–forgive the lack of a better adjective–really very believable. (She is also at her most beautiful in this movie.)
The rest of the cast did just as well: Ansel Elgort as Augustus Waters, who is the real revelation in the movie; Nat Wolff as Augustus’ best friend Isaac, who provides most of the movie’s comic relief; Laura Dern and Sam Trammell (adorable Sam Merlotte from True Blood!) who as Hazel Grace’s parents contribute to the movie’s masterful telling of what it means to love. Then of course there’s Willem Dafoe as the “colorful” character Peter Van Houten, aka Hazel Grace’s ultimate idol, the author of her favorite novel “An Imperial Affliction.” Even Mike Birbiglia, as Cancer Support Group Leader Patrick, with just a minute or two on the screen, was able to make a mark.
And the movie’s dialogue, oh the dialogue. Rephrasing one of Augustus’ lines, the dialogue in this movie should be turned into a person so we can marry it! The lines in The Fault in Our Stars will easily move you to laughter, to tears, to bursts of anger. They are all at once witty and funny, thoughtful and painful, romantic and philosophical. Credit of course goes to author John Green who penned all those hauntingly beautiful lines, but Scott Neustadter and Michael Weber, who did the film’s screenplay, deserve kudos, too, for preserving the dialogue in the book practically word for word, as it should be.
Aside from making the viewer feel (A LOT), the movie also forces some pretty heavy introspection, making one ponder on questions such as, how does one make sense of suffering? Is it wrong to love someone knowing it can only bring that person pain? Would you rather be loved widely by many or deeply by one?
If I have to say one not-so-good thing about the film though, it would be its failure to make reference to the movie title. Pardon the book comparison (I know that can be very annoying), but the reference to the title is one of the most memorable lines in the book: (Don’t read on if you think this classifies as a spoiler!)
But it is the nature of stars to cross, and never was Shakespeare more wrong than when he had Cassius note, “The fault, Brutus, is not in our stars / But in ourselves.” Easy enough to say when you’re a Roman nobleman (or Shakespeare), but there is no shortage of fault to be found amid our stars.
Speaking of the book, does it matter whether you’ve read it or not? I don’t think it does. It doesn’t really matter how much you know of what’s going to happen, you’re going to be moved—widely and deeply—just the same.
Overall, The Fault in Our Stars is a beautiful story told beautifully. It’s a story of love and loss, of suffering and healing, one that will stir the insides of even the most hardened cynic. Definitely five stars.
The Fault in Our Stars,distributed by 20th Century Fox, opens in cinemas on June 5.