Movie Review: 'The Fault in Our Stars' (2014)

Poignant in its somber tone and heavy subject matter, “The Fault in Our Stars” shoots for the moon with a twinkling soundtrack and stellar performances. The melancholic plot of John Green’s best-selling novel centers on a teenage girl dying from cancer, amidst her blossoming relationship with a teenage boy in remission.

It sounds like the recipe for something wholly depressing and while the story doesn’t evade its weightiness, it remains somehow uplifting. Everyone knows their earthly journey will result in the same inevitability, death. For Hazel (Shailene Woodley) it is the forced centerpiece of her existence.

The proximity of her mortality is growing ever closer and what that means for her and her loved ones, is a crushing reality that she must deal with. "The Fault in Our Stars" tackles the big questions that a lot of people are scared to meditate on. We are all connected by this one fact, and yet it is the one thing a lot of us are scared to talk about, and instinctively relate to being a depressing matter to discuss.

The thing about these characters is that they have dealt with it for so long; the subject’s sentimentality has lost its touch. As the film opens up, its bracing dialogue leaps right into the cold waters of mortality also known as the terminal illness called life.

“The Fault in Our Stars” brings the reality of its tragedy to life and makes it relatable. So often young people are depicted defying life’s limitations and here, where they should be at the height of their physical resolve, they are dealt a cruel hand.

The film rages with its characters’ bitterness, happiness, humor, mundane tranquility, spiritual disillusionment, dark dramatic twists and painful resolutions. From the onset; it is clear there will be no happy ending. 

The nature of death doesn’t solely consume those who are its mercy. It is the loved ones that the film accurately depicts struggling to reconcile it most. The story that particular sits out among this opus is that of Hazel’s mother played with heartbreaking restraint by Laura Dern.

Dern portrays Hazel mother's heart-stopping panic at a beckoning yell, her mournful veto on a trip due to the family’s financial struggles, and a desire to cheer on her daughter’s romantic prospects, all the while knowing, they will be short-lived is soul-shattering.

The most tear-jerking moment of the entire film rests in a flashback as she gives her suffering daughter, gentle permission to “let go”. Her silent agony expressed with illuminatingly subtle pathos by Dern is by far the film’s most wrenching and indelible moment.

Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort work well together, their chemistry innocent and blushingly sweet. At times, it seems platonic and so deeply rooted in friendship that it doesn’t quite excel in the romance department. However, their screen connection is so strong and genuine, it is difficult to find much fault with it.

Woodley once again conveys the sincere emotion that she portrayed so fittingly in “The Spectacular Now”. As Hazel she weaves a tangled web of teen dazzle and taxing angst. A scene in which Hazel anxiously checks her phone for contact from Gus (Ansel Elgort), voices itself with great authenticity. As her anxious frustration morphs into a delighted smile, Woodley proves brilliant.

Newcomer Elgort shows promise, tackling Gus’ humor and dark wit with compelling nuance. His portrayal of Gus’ lighthearted side is evenly balanced, managing to pull at the heart strings by staying emotionally reticent. Nat Wolff nails his performance as Gus' jaded friend and his excellence begs for more screen time than he receives. 

Unfortunately, there are some questionably troublesome moments that plague the film. The underage Hazel and Gus imbibe in alcohol, despite the medications they are taking, which in real life carries hazardous consequences.

Later on, there is a glaringly inappropriate moment which comes in a passionate kiss the couple shares in the Anne Frank House, a place of solemn reflection. A hug, in the context, would have sufficed, but a full blown romantic gesture comes off tacky and disrespectful.

Reminiscent of the storyline in 1976’s “Griffin and Phoenix” and the tear jerking hoodwinks of the 2002 weeper “A Walk to Remember”, "The Fault in Our Stars" propels itself with some hearty humor. Josh Boone, the director behind the marvelous indie “Stuck in Love”, helms “Fault” with an appropriate clip, enveloping the appropriate mix of humor, and mellow sadness that seeps into the story in waves. 

In one scene Hazel speaks about that precious four letter word: time. Life, time and death all share one thing in common, they are a universal experience. Life is fragile and in the height of its glory can come its most searing pain.

In this respect, the movie speaks with burdensome truth, and its call to live each moment is clearly received. “The Fault in Our Stars” hits its sparkling starlight by keeping a stark candor, and steady romanticism, which lands an emotional punch in its wake. Rating: 7.1/10

3 comments

  1. I really appreciate your in depth review of this Movie. Keep up the great work!

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    1. Thank you and thanks for taking the time to read and leave a comment! It is greatly appreciated, Gachi. - Britt

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  2. The best romance I have seen in a long time. All the teenage girls in the theater were crying at the end (and I was too), and everyone applauded at the end of the film.

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