Hazel Grace Lancaster is a normal sixteen-year-old girl, reveling in dry humor and sarcasm with a streak of independence. Having earned her GED, she attends the local community college and watches reruns of America’s Next Top Model with her doting parents. And she also has cancer – Stage IV thyroid cancer that nestled into her lungs. Despite her affliction, Hazel lives each day as the one before, not in depression, but in a state of truth, knowing “oblivion is inevitable” and worrying about what cannot be controlled or changed is in fact pointless. Hazel’s mother, concerned Hazel is consumed by her daily regimen of prescription pills and oxygen tank meters, convinces her to attend a support group for teenagers with cancer. In the basement of a church, a circle of chairs and faces and cancers talk about their roller coaster rides against dying. It is here where Hazel enters the star-crossed infinity to be shared with Augustus Waters, an osteosarcoma survivor who has been in remission for fourteen months. The pair of teens instantly connect, sharing an intellectual bond and astute ability to find metaphors in everyday life.
The Fault in Our Stars film is derived from the novel with the same name written by literary genius John Green. Inspired by his time working as a student chaplain at a children’s hospital, Green wanted to capture the idea of humanity, that even children and teenagers faced with terminal illness can live full and complete lives filled with happiness without being cursed to be defined by their disease. The story of Hazel and Gus, while fiction, reverberates with remnants of reality in each tearful embrace and sarcastic remark about death. The title of both creative works was born from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar in a quote that states, “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are the underlings.” Green’s approach with his title reflects the idea that while the stars are not necessarily at fault for the happenings in each person’s life, the universe itself is indifferent to human suffering; disease strikes randomly at no fault to the victim, which in itself can be argued as a fault against the lives of people.
Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort star as Hazel and Augustus respectively, creating a perfect pair to encompass the entirety of Green’s characters. Having each read the novel, both actors were able to pull the emotions from the novel and translate them through the film into the audience. The chemistry between Woodley and Elgort felt genuine and powerful, as expected from two teens experiencing their first glimpse at real love in lives thought to be too short to find such elusive fantasies. Nat Wolff comprised the role of Isaac, Augustus’ best friend blinded by retinoblastoma, using humor as a weapon against depression and death. Together, the cast awakened the story, allowing an even greater audience to touch upon a world of affection and oblivion and infinity.
Director Josh Boone chose very specific music for The Fault in Our Stars. During a Q&A session featured in The Night Before Our Stars, a special event where audience members were the first to watch the national screening of the film, Boone spoke of pitching a concentrated sound to the team at 20th Century Fox to be featured onscreen. A USB featuring music from his iTunes playlist unraveled a sorrowful and elegant platform for the musical team to work from, contracting artists like Birdy and Ed Sheeran for the soundtrack.
Before viewing the film, I highly recommend reading the novel first, not only out of respect for John Green and his years preparing such a rare book, but to fully immerse within the lives of Hazel and Augustus on your own terms. Tissues will be useful during both the novel and film, perhaps a few boxes for those who have a tendency to truly connect with such real characters, a trait typically found in good readers and writers. What you take away from the story is completely based on who you are as a person. For me, describing life as an unbound set seems mathematically sound, a comforting realization that I can have my own infinity no matter the length. Life is about content, quality, the experiences and people and memories we collect along the ride to the top. Hazel and Augustus truly show that even small infinities are worth the struggle and pain. As the audience, the choice is up to you.
And I like my choices.