Directed by: Josh Boone
Based on the eponymous book by John Green, this is the story of Hazel (Woodley) and Gus (Elgort) who are a pair of rather extraordinary teens who share an acerbic wit, a disdain for the conventional, and are both cancer survivors. Hazel’s has affected her respiratory system, and she is required to always wear oxygen, while Gus’ took his leg, and now he hobbles about with a prosthetic one. They meet entirely by chance, at a survivors group — that Hazel’s mom (Dern) has forced her to attend, and Gus is only there to accompany his friend, Isaac (Wolff), who has already lost one eye, and is soon going to lose the other. For Gus this is a straight-up love at first sight, while it takes the more reserved Hazel a bit more time to warm up to Gus’ more cavalier approach to the inevitable approach of oblivion.
What we are treated to is an unsentimental love story that sweeps them – and the audience – off their respective feet and takes us all on an unforgettable journey. Their relationship is all the more miraculous, given that they met and fell in love at a cancer support group, and that they both know that the expected briefness of their lives makes them all the more open to being themselves without games or guile. Hazel is caught up in a book by an American author named Van Houten (Dafoe) who is living in Amsterdam, and Gus arranges for her to meet the author.
What happens next is truly significant for both of these young adults. The film is wonderfully executed as the story artfully examines the widest possible considerations of life, love, and death, all with the sensitivity, intelligence, honesty, and integrity of someone who is looking at it in real-time and not through rose-colored glasses. In the process, we all learn that even with cancer sometimes merely a heartbeat a heartbeat-and-a-half away from death it is life that should be celebrated, even while acknowledging its pain.
Robert J. Sodaro has been reviewing films for some 30 years. During that time, his movie reviews and articles have appeared in numerous print publications, as well as on the web. Subscribe to receive regular articles and movie reviews.