Friday, June 6, 2014
The Fault in Our Stars
Sensible sixteen-year-old Hazel Grace Lancaster (Shailene Woodley) is very sick from her stage-IV metastatic thyroid cancer. When she meets a charismatic and handsome eighteen-year-old Gus Waters (Ansel Elgort) at a cancer support group meeting, immediately they cannot keep their eyes away from each other—a classic case of love at first sight. However, by no means this is a typical teenage love. While Hazel has to breathe through an oxygen tank because of her failing lung, Gus is missing a leg due to cancer. The incredible hardship they face doesn't stop them to embrace each other and cherish the moments they can be together.
After Hazel tells Gus that she is eager to contact Peter van Houten (Willem Dafoe), the author of her favorite book "An Imperial Affliction," to ask questions about a character in the book, Gus helps to make her wish come true. Despite the Hazel's sickness, they travel to Amsterdam to visit Peter van Houten.
Even when "the world is not a wish-granting factory," the two endearing teenagers take on a brave journey that is both physically and emotionally challenging.
Although the subject matter can easily turn the film look like a remake of a typical Korean melodrama, director Josh Boone is able to diligently navigate the narrative and keep the focus on the deeply moving love story between Hazel and Gus and on their inspiring courage to share and appreciate the "little infinity—a forever within the numbered days" they have.
As teenagers, it's impressive how Hazel and Gus are able to express their love, fear, hope, gratitude, joy, pain, and sorrow eloquently in words, or even in silence. Sometimes, the film feels like a better version of "Love Story" (1970) in the 21 century. The on screen chemistry between Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort is undeniably strong, it makes you believe that the two actors must be a cute couple in real life.
In fact, the love story between the two is so well crafted that other flaws in the film may be easily forgiven. For example, even Hazel is strong-willed and intelligent sixteen-year-old girl, her dying wish is to meet an author in Amsterdam seems a little far-fetched. And the scene of her visiting to the Anne Frank House is little pretentious and should have been cut from the film. However, no matter how much older Shailene Woodley looks than a sixteen-year-old, it's unimaginable for somebody else to play Hazel. The immensely gifted Shailene Woodley is the pitch perfect choice.
Love and pain are real, and they are meant to be felt. The film terrifically succeeds in making us resonate with the powerful love story between the two admirable and lovable characters and the pain they have to endure. The sobbing sound in a theater is completely justified.