WARNING - contains spoilers.
I really didn't intend to cry when I went to see The Fault In Our Stars. Somehow I found myself sat on the steps of the local Odeon silently devastated, a good twenty minutes after it ended. To be honest, it had to be expected.
The film itself is extraordinarily true to the novel of the same name, written by acclaimed YA author John Green and published in January 2012. Green has a cult status amongst a lot of teenagers for not only TFIOS, but his 2006 debut novel Looking For Alaska. Although I find Green's novels good, he generally follows a boy + girl binary that can be a bit nausea inducing, a bit boring. Thankfully, TFIOS did not disappoint.
The charm lies with the two leads, Hazel Lancaster (Shailene Woodley) and Augustus Waters (Ansel Elgort), two teens suffering with cancer. Instead of focusing solely on the weepy aspect of the story, the filmmakers did it justice by providing two funny, likeable protagonists instead of cringey cardboard cutouts. Hazel is sarcastic, witty, refreshing - a person you could envisage being friends with. Her appeal is in how everyday she is, in her normality. She is not an all American supermodel. She is a sixteen year old girl battling terminal illness.
Augustus, I was originally unsure of, wary of how Elgort would play a character I grew to love so dearly in the novel. I found his character appealing for his willingness to appear vulnerable: the Augustus of the novel was honest and unafraid to express his feelings. He told Hazel he found her beautiful, he told her he loved her, he refused to play it cool or act as if she was unimportant to him. Elgort is an incredible Augustus – he turns lines that I winced at into charming one liners, and as a member of the audience you are quite as taken with him as Hazel is on their first meeting.
For Hazel is dying. Slowly, but surely. Augustus is in remission. Both attend a cancer support group, held in a church and accompanied by many other interesting characters -including Isaac (Nat Wolff), Augstus' closest friend. All attendees know the reality of their terminal illnesses, but they are not without hope.
What makes the movie so touching is the couple's refusal to give up on their chance at happiness, no matter how fleeting it may be. We see Hazel's life, how she feels unable to be an ordinary teenager and experience things, but how through her bravery she does this. Hazel's bravery is in pursuing every day, in facing the certainty of death with honesty, but still allowing herself to be lightened by the humour and love of Augustus. We grow to love them both.
Through their eyes we see Amsterdam, as Augustus uses his wish from The Genie Foundation (a charity similar to the real world Make-A-Wish foundation, a cause which provides children with life-threatening illnesses an experience of their choice) so that Hazel can meet her idol, Peter van Houten, author of her favourite book. Expecting the kindly man the pair have corresponded with over email, they are horrified to meet a bitter, cruel drunk with zero interest in their questions or experiences. The pair enjoy Amsterdam regardless; they are now devoted to each other.
Now the real reason for my tears on cinema steps emerges - it is not Hazel who is dying, but Augustus. He has relapsed and the news is not good. It is a credit to Elgort's acting how we see Augustus deteriorate physically, but he remains the same young man who first smiled Hazel down in 'the literal heart of Jesus'.
If you're after a tearjerker without too much sap, two charismatic leads, an honest and unglamorous insight of cancer, and a stellar supporting cast, I can recommend The Fault In Our Stars as a film which does it all, and does it well.
The Fault In Our Stars is out in cinemas now.