Movie adaptations of young adult novels are really in right now, and I love it. After Harry Potter blew up, filmmakers realized that books geared toward younger audiences can make for great movies that appeal to general audiences. My favorite young adult novel/movie combos include The Perks of Being a Wallflower and It’s Kind of a Funny Story. These are books that really struck a cord with readers and transitioned successfully into full-length theatrical movies that stay true to the source material while drawing in readers and non-readers alike.
And now there’s a new book/movie combination to add to the list: The Fault in Our Stars. The book, written by John Green, is about two cancer patients who fall in love and navigate the sticky world of mortality and chaos together while trying to make some sort of sense out of it all. The book is heartfelt without being cliche, and it became wildly popular upon its release. It became so popular, in fact, that Fox decided to adapt it into a movie. I got a chance to see that movie last weekend, and I wanted to do a quick write-up on my thoughts about it.
I want to start with a warning: This movie is very sad. I’m sure most of you have heard this by now, but TFiOS is not a feel-good movie. However, it is not just a sad movie. It will warm your heart at some points. It will make you think a lot. It will help you relate to people with terminal illness in a way you probably haven’t before. But it’s not a movie you’ll walk away from feeling happy and care-free. Like many good movies, it makes you feel a range of emotions and will probably leave you emotionally exhausted. This is a good thing as long as you’re prepared for it.
The Fault in Our Stars is not your typical romance movie. John Green isn’t just Nicholas Sparks for teenagers. TFiOS is an honest look at what it’s like to be young, in love, and face-to-face with your own imminent death. That’s what really sets it apart. It doesn’t beat around the bush when it comes to the character’s illnesses or the effects they have on their lives. The characters are brutally honest about what they’re going through, and it makes the movie really compelling.
The acting in this film was just amazing. Shailene Woodley plays Hazel Grace, the main character of the movie, who has to constantly carry around an oxygen tank, an outward sign of the cancer that is killing her on the inside. Shailene did an amazing job, as usual, at portraying both the cynical side of Hazel and the part of her that just wants to live a normal teenage life. She is complemented by Ansel Elgort, who plays August Waters, the cocky former cancer patient who also carries a sign of his illness: a prosthetic leg. Both actors portray their characters really well. They’re true to the book while also letting their own talents shine, and they have an on-screen chemistry that nearly rivals that of Peter Park and Gwen Stacy.
Finally, this movie is deep. As I said before, TFiOS doesn’t sugar coat the fact that the main characters in the movie have cancer. It’s talked about honestly and often, and everyone in the film has to deal with the implications of Hazel’s illness. They have to answer some tough questions. Should a teenager with a short life expectancy allow someone else to become emotionally attached to her? How does she deal with knowing that when she does inevitably lose her battle with cancer, she’s going to hurt a lot of people? How does one find meaning in the midst of a seemingly chaotic and certainly unfair world? The movie offers some hints of answers, but you’ll have to watch it to see exactly how it all plays out.
The Fault in Our Stars is in theaters now. It’s a great movie that I think most people would benefit from seeing. There is some strong language, though, and the film deals with some pretty heavy topics, so it’s probably not best for young children. If you bring your kids, you’ll probably want to have a discussion with them before and after about the film and what it means. TFiOS is great as a standalone film and as a book adaptation, so you can see it whether you’ve read the book or not (although you should definitely read the book at some point). Go watch The Fault in Our Stars, and let me know what you think about it! Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you on Tuesday.