Film: "The Fault In Our Stars"; Cast: Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort, Laura Dern, Sam Trammell, Nat Wolff, Willem Dafoe, Lotte Verbeek, Mike Birbiglia; Director: Josh Boone; Rating: *** 1/2
Based on John Green's young adult novel about two star-crossed cancer stricken lovers, "The Fault In Our Stars" is a romantics' delight, where "the pain demands to be felt".
Dealt in a competent fashion, the film is a near-faithful adaptation of the bestseller.
What sets this story from other romantic tragedies apart is its presentation and perspective. At the very onset we are told, this is not a sugar-coated romance but the plain truth.
Death hovers and the entire film resonates with the harshness of cancer, but this tragic story takes a positive path which is simple, undemanding and sentimentally grounded where you become one with the characters.
The story follows 16-year-old Hazel Grace Lancaster (Shailene Woodley) a stage four lymphoma survivor with an affected thyroid. The cancer is gradually spreading to her lungs. With tubes constantly plugged into her nose, she is required to cart along an oxygen tank wherever she goes.
According to her mother Frannie (Laura Dern), Hazel is getting depressive and is slowly turning into a recluse.
So on her mother's insistence Hazel joins a church support group where she meets 18-year-old Augustus Waters (Ansel Elgort), who is there to support his friend Isaac (Nat Wolff).
Augustus is an Osteosarcoma patient who is now cancer free after having his leg amputated.
Both with polar personalities - she as a sharp-tongued recluse and he as a gregarious charmer, they bond over books and authors.
She initiates him to read her favourite, "An Imperial Affliction" written by a mysterious author, Peter van Houten.
The abrupt ending of the novel ignites a desire in both of them to meet the author so that they may quiz him about the fate of the protagonist of the novel who too is a cancer patient and they personally relate to.
The first half of the film strikes a fine balance between the weariness of the subject and the levity of first love, grounding its characters and their emotional highs. However, the second half flows with a long series of rumination, questioning fate, life, death and relationships.
The characters manage a genuine charm amid some of the contrivances. Their justifiable teen angst reveals an underlying truth beneath the irony, oddity and impulses. They earn audience sympathy, rather than pity and they hook you with their straightforwardness and simplicity.
Elgort and Woodley, who previously starred together as the brother- sister duo in "Divergent", have a compelling chemistry.
Shailene offers a rock solid and earnest performance as Hazel Grace. Elgort is charismatic and his character is strongly reminiscent of DiCapario's Jack Dawson from "Titanic".
Of the parents, it's only Laura Dern's character as Hazel's mother that is well etched and she does justice to her role. William Dafoe as the eccentric author Peter van Houten is disappointing.
Packed with metaphors, the dialogues are witty, sharp and amusing.
Director Josh Boone has worked hard in camouflaging the pain and pathos that burdens the plot. The light banter and the attractively captured frames by cinematographer Ben Richardson do justice to the source material and scriptwriters Scott Neustadter, Michael H. Weber's work.
Overall, the film tugs at your emotional chord making you laugh and cry at the same time. But what makes the film memorable is that the characters linger in your mental orbit much after you leave the auditorium, making it a fine example of a good cinematic experience.