Cancer can be a bitch. In fact, cancer is a bitch. The only way that someone can possibly think about it and smile at the same time is by watching this version of John Green’s young adult bestseller: The Fault in Our Stars.
The story develops as Gus (Ansel Elgort), who suffers from osteosarcoma, falls in love with Hazel Grace (Shailene Woodley), who has been suffering from thyroid lesions which metastasised to her lungs since she was a kid. Accompanied by Hazel’s mother (an astonishing Laura Dern), the young couple travel to Amsterdam in the hope of meeting Peter van Houten, Hazel’s favourite writer who turns out to be a complete phsyco. This plot can seem simple: two young lovers are slowly dying from cancer; good one. Let’s cry, feel sympathy for them, and then carry on with our lives. Most similar films with this kind of audience are maudlin and manipulative (with a special mention to The Cure 1995), however, in this film, director Josh Boone never feels like he is trying too hard to win our tears or our laughter. In fact, Boone manages to convey an open and honest, head on depiction of death – meaning you will most likely end up crying for four hours after the end of the film.
Following 500 Days of Summer, screenwriters Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber manage to focus their script on celebrating life rather than the darker side of death, reaching a magical point at which somehow, they get the audience to believe that to waste time is to make the most of it. However, some scenes draw moral equivalences that are actively repulsive, especially the one in which the main characters make out in Anne Frank’s house of all the beautiful places in Amsterdam. What could have come next? Them losing their virginity in a gas chamber?
“I fell in love with him the way you fall asleep.” She said. “Slowly and then all at once”. Moral equivalences can be a big deal, but, with a line as good as this, we can forgive whatever.