This story first came into my life at the beginning of 2013 when I wrote a rather gushing review of John Green’s infamous tearjerking novel. Since then, thanks to the growing popularity in YA contemporary literature, the book has gone flying to the top of must-read lists and has become a bestseller pretty much everywhere. With such a huge following, it was inevitable that a film was going to be made and I’m delighted that it appears to have come around so soon. I was lucky enough to get a ticket to an advanced screening and as I do consider the book to be one of my favourites of all time, I was hoping that it would translate well to screen.
It follows the blossoming relationship of Hazel Grace Lancaster (Shailene Woodley), an assertive, bookish girl who lugs around an oxygen tank and Augustus Waters (Ansel Elgort), a witty, poetic boy with a prosthetic leg. Meeting at a support group for teenagers with cancer, they fall in love and embark on a romance that drags you along with it right from the first “okay”. From fulfilling their life-long wishes to simply being normal teenagers, they laugh and joke their way through their tragically short lives until the ending strikes, bringing everything back to harsh reality.
Of course, it isn’t all doom and gloom. Their blind friend Isaac (Nat Wolff) provides a lot of the comic relief. The scene in which Hazel, Gus and Isaac throw eggs at Isaac’s ex-girlfriend’s house is full of laughs as Isaac’s blindness prevents him from being able to aim properly as is the scene in Gus’ bedroom where Isaac proceeds to smash everything up in a rage at being dumped. There are also plenty of funny moments between Hazel and Gus while their love is developing and the fact that they are both such clever, witty people only adds to the tragedy.
The film did stick pretty closely to the book and there were certain scenes where you couldn’t help but get choked up. Gus claims that he wants to attend his own funeral so asks Hazel and Isaac to speak at a rehearsal he has set up. Hazel reads out a heart-breaking eulogy about how thankful she is for her relationship with Gus and how much she loves him. This along with the very end are guaranteed to bring tears to your eyes as you reflect on what an ambitious, brave person Gus is. His strength are what keeps Hazel going and it’s a lovely nod to the belief that young love is never insignificant. In fact, it’s probably the strongest kind of love there is.
All in all, the book was definitely better than the film but that isn’t to say that it didn’t come over well on screen. Indeed there wasn’t a dry eye in the cinema but as with so many book-to-film adaptations, nothing can ever beat the original text with your own interpretation of the characters. Dealing with Hazel and Gus’ situation in my own mind was somehow much more heartbreaking because I felt more invested in them as people than I did with the cast of the film. However, The Fault In Our Stars is a beautiful timeless love story that is guaranteed to hit you hard. At first glance at the film trailer or back of the book, it may appear to be a fluffy teen romance topped with cheese but it is in fact, so far from that.
The subject matter takes YA entertainment to a new level of emotion. Yes these kids are dealing with normal teen struggles such as discovery of sex, conflicts with parents and worries about the future but they’re doing so while standing on the brink of oblivion -which is what Gus confesses is his only fear. This alone means you have to hand it to John Green for tackling a topic as serious as cancer and writing it in a way that everyone can relate to whether you’ve come into contact with it yourself or not -something only a very skilled writer can do.