If we've learned anything over the years, it's to never underestimate the power of a young adult novel adaptation. Franchises such as Harry Potter and The Hunger Games have made tremendous amounts of money at the box office, primarily due to the large audience of readers that followed the production so very closely. However, the majority of them are action or fantasy films, although Twilight falls somewhere between fantasy and romance. Unfortunately, this franchise largely fails to connect with audiences, as it never feels genuine. John Green's The Fault in Our Stars (directed by Josh Boone) tells a much more genuine love story that carries a lot more emotion, symbolism, and sincerity. You'll want to make sure that you have a big pack of tissues to bring to the cinemas with you, as you'll be sure to leave the theater an emotional wreck.
Hazel (Shailene Woodley) is talked into attending a cancer support group after her parents begin to believe that she's falling into a depression due to her stage-four cancer that critically affects her lungs. She quite literally bumps into Gus (Ansel Elgort), who has overcome cancer. Once they realize that they have a lot in common, a relationship blossoms. Hazel knows that she isn't long for this world, and is terrified of hurting Gus. However, Gus gives up his one "cancer wish" in order to ensure her wish to travel to Amsterdam and meet her favorite author.
There's a serious lack of sincerity found in the majority of love stories expressed in motion pictures and novels. Hazel narrates her difficult journey with cancer, but more specifically, about the boy who gave her the world. Unlike many of those other stories, this one feels true, as Hazel begins the film by apologizes for her honesty that may incite fear in others. However, The Fault in Our Stars is as much of a character study as it is a love story. A true transformation is seen within the lead character's role after she meets Gus. In the first act, she reads the same book repeatedly and keeps most of her feelings locked within herself. After getting the chance to meet Gus, not only does she become open with another individual, but she's finally able to be honest with herself. It doesn't take very long for the audience to become engrossed in Hazel's character. The true reason for this isn't her condition, but the courage and philosophy found within her. Gus has a personality that compliments that of Hazel, making for several intriguing discussions. The dialogue shared between these characters captures our attention, making us want to hear more.
Screenwriters Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber have done a wonderful job providing both a sense of honesty and humor. While this is still a romantic drama at heart, it treats many pieces of the grim material with light humor. It comes across as being so incredibly infectious, you can't help but crack a few smiles and chuckles throughout the running time. While young adults will surely enjoy it, the material is actually handled in a mature nature. Given what these two teenagers have been through, it's no wonder that they were forced to grow up rather quickly, but every word is still believable coming out of the mouth of teenagers. This is one of the largest assets that the film has to offer, as it will make you believe that you're watching reality rather than a movie. The only slight stumble made is with the sub-plot of meeting the author of Hazel's favorite book, as it occasionally seems to pull away at inappropriate times. Otherwise, this is a powerful screenplay that handles its material incredibly well.
Once you reach the end of the second act, you'll wish that you brought a pack of tissues to the cinemas. This is when The Fault in Our Stars truly turns into a tearjerker. This is where the film could have easily drifted into tacky and over-the-top territory, but the screenplay remains steady. Neustadter and Weber know exactly what buttons to push, as well as how hard to press them. Even with the intense amount of drama found here, it never feels like too much. Reality is harsh, and that's exactly how this story depicts it. At this point, it's nearly impossible to not become entirely invested in this young couple, as you want to see them achieve nothing less than success. This makes any negative revelations feel like a punch to the gut, which is a feat that most films aren't able to achieve with double the running time. The Fault in Our Stars has a strong sense of storytelling and character that never seems to fade.
Perhaps this picture wouldn't have worked quite as well without the excellent casting decisions. Shailene Woodley turns in a brilliant performance in the role of Hazel. Other than cutting her hair extremely short, it's clear that she put every ounce of her heart and soul into this character. Regardless of what character she portrays, she always displays a huge sense of innocence and sincerity that is so incredibly difficult to find. This is a powerhouse performance that won't soon be forgotten. Ansel Elgort does well as Gus, especially when considering that he remains convincing opposite a performance as wonderful as Woodley's. He delivers a lot of wit and charm, which perfectly balances Hazel on screen. Even the supporting performances are believable, making for an authentic moviegoing experience.
I haven't cried during a film in years, but The Fault in Our Stars has restarted that counter. Some movies manage to give viewers a few tears in their eyes, but this is the type of feature that will leave you sobbing. Few motion pictures manage to capture such an incredible amount of genuine emotion as well as this. It doesn't end when the credits roll, as this is a film that is sure to stick with you for quite some time. Shailene Woodley is a revelation, as she delivers an outstanding performance as Hazel. The Fault in Our Stars reaches emotional depths rarely seen in cinema. Be sure to bring tissues, as this one is guaranteed to leave you crying. Highly recommended!