Movies about teenagers often focus on the angst of high school relationships and the lures of dangerous substances and situations. Sex, drugs and rock and roll predominate movies about teenagers. But this season, a far more serious subject undergirds a movie featuring teenage characters. Currently in theatres is “The Fault in Our Stars,” which is based on the popular book of the same name and takes its audience into a community of young people who are grappling with serious cancer diagnoses.
“The Fault in Our Stars” centers on middle-class Hazel (played by Shailene Woodley), who has spent most of her teen years battling lung cancer. Because of this, she uses an oxygen tank to breathe and her physical capacities are strained. Her devoted mother (played by Laura Dern) pushes her to attend support groups, which she does only to appease her mom. Here, Hazel meets the slightly cocky Augustus (played by Ansel Elgort), who has lost part of his leg to cancer, and romantically besotted Isaac (played by Nat Wolff), whose cancer is robbing him of his vision. Augustus and Hazel fall in love. They become fixated on a book about cancer written by a reclusive writer (played by Willem Dafoe), who lives in Amsterdam.
“The Fault in Our Stars” has a great screenplay. The conversations sound like those of real teenagers. Although it is a depressing story, the tear-invoking movie does have a lot of humorous moments. Much of the comic relief comes from Isaac. One of the best scenes in the film is when he, Augustus and Hazel egg the car of his former girlfriend.
Shailene Woodley is excellent in the lead role. She gives us a mature Hazel, who is quite realistic about her prognosis and tries to avoid relationships since she knows she will die soon. Ansel Elgort is equally strong as Augustus, who is much more upbeat. Another memorable performance is by Laura Dern as Hazel’s mom, who gives the audience a stunning perspective of what the day to day life of a mother with a cancer ridden child would be like.
Although it is often sad, “The Fault in Our Stars” is still well worth seeing for its strong performances and mature storyline.