Director: Josh Boone Writers: Scott Neustadter, Michael H. Weber Studios: 20th Century Fox, Temple Hill Entertainment Cast: Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort, Nat Wolff, Laura Dern, Sam Trammell, Willem Dafoe Release Date (UK): 19 June, 2014 Certificate: 12A Runtime: 125 min
Lotsa snifflin’. “The Fault in Our Stars,” the new teen-oriented cancer weepy, is, like most teen-oriented cancer weepies, mawkish and manipulative. The difference with this, however, is that unlike most teen-oriented cancer weepies, it earns the right to be mawkish and manipulative. It earns this through the relationship between its central pair of sick (and getting sicker) lovebirds: Hazel (Shailene Woodley) and Gus (Ansel Elgort), two sharp-witted teenagers who meet at a cancer support group in Indianapolis. Hazel has terminal thyroid cancer and walks everywhere with a tube up her nose and an oxygen tank at her side. Gus has osteosarcoma, which is in remission, but it has taken his right leg. Bonding over their sicknesses, they become good friends, then more than friends, even as death approaches their doorsteps.
Like “Marley and Me” (but good), “The Fault in Our Stars” is a film you go into bracing yourself for the emotional sledgehammer. A love story between two cancer patients can end only in tear-soaked tragedy. We know this, so when introduced to Hazel and Gus, some may attempt to resist getting swept away in their doomed romance as a means of self-defense. But resistance is futile: Woodley and Elgort are so good together, and their conversations so enjoyable, and their blossoming romance so engaging and believable, that getting swept away is the only option. Before you know it you’re warming to them, you’re going on an emotional journey with them and you’re falling in love with them. Then the sledgehammer hits, and you’re a blubbering wreck crying on the floor.
Me, I got teary eyed and I was sniffling away, and may have had to blow my nose a couple times. And while yes, the film achieves this partly through the saddest of piano riffs playing in the background, I didn’t feel cheated: the film had allowed me to grow to care about the characters and laugh with them and care about what happened to them in a way that felt natural rather than forced. As far as I’m concerned, the film absolutely earns the right to turn all weepy and sappy towards the end: if you’re gonna try and make me cry, first make me care, and “The Fault in Our Stars” did make me care. It’s manipulative, to be sure, almost cruelly so, but it allows us to fall in love with Hazel and Gus in a way that’s anything but.
(8 Outta 10)