UK Release Date: 19th June 2014
Runtime: 126 minutes
Director: Josh Boone
Writer: Scott Neustadter, Michael H Weber
Starring: Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort, Nat Wolff, Laura Dern, Willem Dafoe
Synopsis: A teenage cancer sufferer finds her life changed forever when she finally meets a man who understands the way she feels about her condition.
The phrase “literary phenomenon” is tossed about rather liberally at the moment as we sit within a boom period for young adult fiction. But in amongst the dystopias of The Hunger Games and Divergent sits something special – the brutally realistic and utterly heart-wrenching The Fault In Our Stars.
Based on the book by John Green – of VlogBrothers fame – the movie follows Hazel Grace Lancaster (Shailene Woodley) as she meets and falls in love with Augustus Waters (Ansel Elgort) at a cancer support group. The pair must grapple with the implications of their illnesses as they bond against a backdrop of troubled friends (Nat Wolff), troubled parents (Laura Dern) and a jaded author (Willem Dafoe).
The Fault In Our Stars isn’t just a successful literary adaptation; it’s a genuinely excellent film. It wisely eschews the tentpole ideals of other YA movies in favour of a more lo-fi, indie tone and smaller budget. The trailers and posters have more in common with the latest Sundance hit than an enormous mass market blockbuster.
That’s a trait that also carries through to the script. It is largely free of romantic clichés and full of gallows humour that will make every nearby grandmother blush. So many YA novels lose their edge on the big screen, but The Fault In Our Stars is delightfully prickly and willing to push its audience hard.
| "I cannot tell you how thankful I am for our little infinity."
Wisely, director Josh Boone asked author John Green to be on set throughout the production process of The Fault In Our Stars. Green has claimed he was present for around 80% of the shoot. This level of involvement is obvious throughout the film. It’s the most faithful book-film adaptation in years with a clear reverence for its source, but it also knows exactly when to trim the fat. It’s not just a good adaptation; it’s a great film.
Shailene Woodley is the anchor at the heart of it all. Her chemistry with Elgort is both searingly warm and brilliantly brittle, ensuring that their relationship is born of reality rather than of a sun-drenched dream world á la Nicholas Sparks. Woodley’s performance is the perfect balance of world-weary cynicism and crushing vulnerability, ensuring that her illness is always there, but never overwhelms. It’s a triumphant, subtle display of which the breakout star of The Descendants should be very proud indeed.
But Woodley would be all alone without the terrific work of Ansel Elgort, last seen in the risible remake of Carrie. Elgort has the swagger now expected of YA male leads, but he also brings a troubled undercurrent to his character that is always bubbling under the surface. It’s clear that his bravado is entirely manufactured.
Special credit must also go to Willem Dafoe, who is as good as he has ever been in his brief appearance as author Peter Van Houten. Dafoe is nothing but believable as a man who genuinely believes he is a misunderstood genius, deserving of far more than the attention of a couple of teenagers.
| "You put the killing thing right between your teeth, but you don’t give it the power to do its killing. A metaphor.”
From the visual tricks to the perfectly judged soundtrack, The Fault In Our Stars is a remarkable example of everything aligning perfectly. The third act is a sublime rollercoaster of teary hysterics and enormous belly laughs that is as thrilling and emotional as anything mainstream cinema has produced this year.
In an era when so many YA flicks are predictable, forgettable and often reek of boardroom interference, The Fault In Our Stars is a breath of fresh air.
As Woodley’s Hazel states, some infinities are indeed longer than others, but something tells me that The Fault In Our Stars will find its own slice of forever.
Pop or Poop?
With a handful of genuinely Oscar-worthy performances and palpable love for the source material in every frame, The Fault In Our Stars is a near-perfect adaptation of a wonderful novel.
It will please Nerdfighters and newbies alike with its tearjerking finale and acerbic dark humour, but this is a film that will last for a very long time indeed.
Crediting its young audience with maturity and intelligence, the dream team of Boone, Green and the two screenwriters have created a film that could truly define a genre.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.