As parents, we try to protect our children from anything or anyone that can hurt them. While we can’t guarantee they will be happy and healthy, despite our efforts, we hope and pray they always face better days. Of the many fears we may experience as parents, the thought of a child facing a serious illness frightens most. How helpless would we feel if we couldn’t make it all better?
So it’s impossible to see The Fault in Our Stars without reflecting on our parental fears. While this moving adaptation of John Green’s novel may be about young people, Laura Dern’s thoughtful performance as a caring mother demonstrates the strength that any parent would hope to bring to such a situation. If the film reminds us that happy endings don’t always happen, even at the movies, it reinforces our belief that people with courage can navigate any experience.
Hazel is a courageous young woman. Since her childhood she has faced a series of health-care challenges related to her complicated battle with stage-4 thyroid cancer. While she takes a practical view of her prognosis, Hazel seems older than her years, perhaps because she has confronted so much in a short life. What seems to escape her daily routine is spontaneity; every step she takes follows a routine her condition demands.
When she meets Gus, at a local support group for cancer victims, she is caught off-guard. Yes, he is also a cancer survivor; yes, he can share the lessons that illness can teach. But he’s so determined to stop the disease from defining his life that he pushes Hazel into seeing possibilities. Gus refuses to let fear rule his days; instead he fills his life with experiences to be remembered.
With its focus on the joys of relationships, not just the tragedy of illness, Fault on film emerges as a character study of how people choose to live today when tomorrow is far from certain. Without letting the film become too maudlin — given the severity of its subject matter — director Josh Boone wisely chooses to focus on the moments these young people do control, from how they spend time together, to how they stand up to their parents, to how they challenge the irreverent behavior of a once-famous author. By making the teenagers into real people trying to cope with real issues, Boone elevates the film from a traditional tearjerker to a portrayal of hope that can touch even a cynical moviegoer.
At the core of Fault is the multi-shaded work of Shailene Woodley as the cancer victim hoping to share small moments. This lovely actress, so memorable in The Descendants, refuses to play Hazel as a one-dimensional victim. Instead she makes the character a young woman with many layers, a lady who balances the reality of her situation with the excitement that new relationships can bring. Never do we feel we are watching an actress; Woodley invests the role with enough humanity to make the predictable feel spontaneous.
While Woodley dominates the film, much can be said about Laura Dern’s realistic portrayal of parental concern. She makes us believe in the authenticity of a parent’s experience that, in turn, gives the film’s emotional journey a solid foundation.
Yes, Fault can inspire tears. Unlike the traditional tearjerker, though, the reaction is not in response to loss. In The Fault in Our Stars, the joys the characters experience frame the tragedies they confront. Their bravery teaches us that, when we face truth, we can find life in any situation.
Film Nutritional Value
The Fault in Our Stars
* Content: High. With its focus on characters, and the family relationships that can provide strength, the film gives us a lot to think about.
* Entertainment: High. Despite the serious subject matter, Fault doesn’t take itself or his characters too seriously as it lets the natural rhythm and humor breathe.
* Message: High. Parents will quickly identify with the tragedy of a child facing difficult challenges; teenagers may see themselves in these characters who want to experience life in any dosage.
* Relevance: High. We should welcome any chance to reflect on how lucky we are when we can end each day with the security that people we love are doing well.
* Opportunity for Dialogue: High. There’s a lot to talk about after spending time with these characters and, hours later, you will still find yourself smiling about an experience you share.
(The Fault in Our Stars is rated PG-13 for “thematic elements, some sexuality and brief strong language.” The film runs 125 minutes.)
4 Popcorn Buckets