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Shailene Woodley shines in 'The Fault in Our Stars'

'The Fault in Our Stars' movie review

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Cancer is a devastatingly tragic disease that affects millions of people each year. But nothing is more tragic than young lives that are cut short by the disease. ‘The Fault in Our Stars’ starring Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort teaches us that you don’t have to live a long life to live a meaningful one.

Hazel (Shailene Woodley) and Gus (Ansel Elgort) share a tender moment.
Used with permission, James Bridges ©2014 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All rights reserved. Property of Fox
Live love to the fullest.
2014 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All rights reserved. Property of Fox

In the movie, sixteen years old Hazel Grace Lancaster (Shailene Woodley) and seventeen year old Gus Waters (Ansel Elgort), are two extraordinary teenagers who share an acerbic wit, a disdain for the conventional, and a love that sweeps them and all those around (including the audience) on an unforgettable journey. Their relationship is all the more miraculous, given that they met and fell in love at a cancer support group. Based upon the number-one bestselling novel by John Green, ‘The Fault in Our Stars’ explores the funny, thrilling and tragic business of being alive and in love.

Like so many who suffer from a health issues, Hazel and Gus share their fears, as well as their love of books. We learn that Hazel is obsessed with a book describing one young girl’s journey into death, ‘An Imperial Affliction’ written by the recluse reclusive author Peter Van Houten (Willem Dafoe). She has tried and failed to contact him many times to discuss his work. Gus manages to reach Van Houten through the author’s assistant, and receives an invitation to meet the writer in Amsterdam. Gus is determined to take Hazel on a journey that will answer every question she has ever had about the book that has meant so much to her.

But the answers she is looking for do not come from Peter Van Houten. The answers ultimately come from living a great adventure that Hazel shares with someone she is not afraid to love.

From the beginning, one realizes that this is no ordinary love story. It is however, a profound revelation of our existence in the world. It draws us into the story with a power to impact our lives. Often we view characters seeking wisdom from others and learning life lessons along the way. Yet, it is the powerful message in ‘The Fault in Our Stars’ that teaches us that life lessons are learned from within and with those we love.

Fans of the book have already shed tears over the tragic love story of youth seeking to find a normal life as their disease ravages their bodies. Do not be alarmed if you suddenly find yourself amidst a sea of tears in the theater. The well-written story has the ability to strike a chord of empathy amongst the audience (frankly, I’ve never seen so many tissue boxes in a theater).

When twenty-two year old Woodley was announced as being cast as a sixteen year old, I was a little skeptical that she could do this part justice. After all, time marches on and one might not have the ability to tap into the innocence and fears of a sixteen year old girl. Fortunately for us, Woodley was up to the challenge of portraying Grace. She is superb as the strong willed Grace saddled with a fragile life expectancy. She is definitely the glue that holds this story together. It is her believability as the character that enhances the story and strikes a chord in viewing hearts.

Likewise, Elgort (who starred along with Shailene in the blockbuster ‘Divergent’) brings his character to life with his good looks and optimistic smile. His portrayal of the young jock that lost his leg to cancer is touching as we painstakingly watch him give his all through a selfless act of love.

The talented cast also includes Laura Dern as Grace’s mom, Nat Wolff, Sam Trammell as her dad, and Mike Birbiglia.

The soundtrack (available on ITunes®) is hauntingly beautiful and an excellent companion to the film. It contains ‘All Of The Stars’ - Ed Sheeran ‘Simple As This’ - Jake Bugg ‘Let Me In’ – Grouplove ‘Best Shot’ - Birdy & Jaymes Young ‘All I Want’ - Kodaline ‘Long Way Down’ - Tom Odell ‘Boom Clap’ - Charli XCX ‘While I’m Alive’ - STRFKR ‘Oblivion’ - Indians ‘Strange Things Will Happen’ - The Radio Dept. ‘Bomfallarella’ - Afasi & Filthy ‘Without Words’ - Ray LaMontagne ‘Not About Angels’ – Birdy ‘No One Ever Loved’ - Lykke Li ‘Wait’ - M83 ‘Tee Shirt’ - Birdy .

We mere mortals can only wish for the love experienced in ‘The Fault in Our Stars’ by Grace and Gus that has given them both what she calls a ‘little infinity – a forever within the numbered days.’ Sadly, that is more than most of us have seen in our long lifetimes.

‘The Fault in Our Stars’ is in theaters June 6, 2014. It is rated PG-13 for thematic elements, some sexuality and brief strong language. It has a Runtime of 135 minutes.