Director : Josh Boone
Writer : Scott Neustadter, Michael H. Weber
Stars : Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort, Laura Dern, Sam Trammell, Nat Wolff, Willem Dafoe
Release year : 2014 (imdb)
Recent years have seen the film market teeming with kids-with-cancer movies, featuring teen or barely-not-teen charming leads falling in love, inspiring others while counting their remaining days before a terminal disease (cancer) takes one of them away. So much that these movies are laying the foundation of a new romance subgenre, with its own narration style, character set and story format. The onscreen adaptation of John Green’s bestseller The Fault In Our Stars is just another contribution to the lot, a disciplined but predictable one.
Hazel Grace Lancaster is a 16-year-old who was diagnosed 3 years earlier with cancer. She is witty and reflective, has a fondness for a novel titled An Imperial Affliction which she reads and re-reads, but admits she is depressed and depressive as a side-effect of her disease. Her mother urges her to attend a support group for people with similar condition. This is where she meets Augustus “Gus” Waters, a charming 18-year-old who lost a leg to cancer but now is cancer-free. The two share their hobbies and eventually form a strong bond.
Without spoiling much, this movie has all ingredients to be a heartbreaking drama, from the likeable main characters, to the inevitable tragic end looming from start to finish. However, the scripts’ lack of depth, the conventional storytelling and the proficient (almost hasty and commercial) directing, are all impediments to its promised cinematic achievements.
Still, Shailene (Hazel) Woodley’s natural and nuanced performance keeps you engaged, despite Ansel (Gus) Elgort’s inability to keep up with his female counterpart.
It should have been a powerful tearjerker and a defining landmark of the post-millennium YA cinema. But what presented itself as a more sober and thoughtful take on the cancer theme, turns out to be just a chick-flick desperately begging for your tears while tediously trying to hit every single note of the subgenre.