Hazel Lancaster has been diagnosed with cancer, and while the medicines she’s taking are currently working, they are just prolonging her life - she’s still sick. At a cancer support group, she meets Augustus Waters, another cancer survivor - and they hit it off. To further discuss anything else about the plot beyond this point will basically spoil the entire film, as it stayed faithful to the book. Sure, they took out some parts here and there, but they were minor adjustments and are not relevant to the movement or purpose of the story.
What makes the story great is that it doesn't focus on the pain, loss or sadness about having cancer, but in spite of that, they choose to celebrate love, and to be happy, even if they know their days are numbered. We’re not treated to the characters discussing their pains and struggles of having cancer, nor do they connect because of that. They each have their own lives outside of their sickness, their own story, and they celebrate their living outside the limitations that their body has set for them. It’s what makes it heartbreaking as well, that the reality of things soon set in for them, that even if they love each other and they are happy, there are still boundaries that even they could not stop.
While this will be the time I would probably be going crazy and telling you my love for the movie and the portrayal of the characters, I had to ask myself: Did I like the portrayal in the film because the actors gave amazing performances, or did I like the movie because I’m too enamored with the novel? Don’t get me wrong, I thought that Shailene Woodley portrayed Hazel well, and the same goes for Ansel Elgort. In a way, it was both. If the actors didn't do justice with the characters, I wouldn't have liked it as much. Then again, maybe their performances were elevated because they were assisted with great writing. The dialogue was great, and while there are some lines that can instantly melt you, they're said in a fitting context. It was difficult to separate the two entities from each other, that it just blended well together. But are Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort the portrayal epitome of Hazel and Gus? I think Elgort was perfectly cast, as he got the charm and charisma of the character. Sure, Elgort could have used some pointers in making a cry face, but he was still great. While Woodley did get the character right, I’m not so sure if she’s really the embodiment of Hazel as the way she was written in the book. Still, both actors did great, and their performances were definitely a factor on making the film beautiful.
The movie is also supported with an array of supporting characters that strike some representation. While the prominent character is Peter Van Houten (the author of Hazel’s favorite book, An Imperial Affliction - whom also represents the end of the spectrum of what Hazel, Gus and Hazel’s parents are, in terms of coping up with cancer), the supporting cast that steals the scenes she’s present at is Laura Dern, who plays Hazel’s mother. It was impossible not to give Dern your attention once she’s on screen. She’s not just a typical mother character that gets washed out by the main cast, but she’s a noticeable character herself. Willem Dafoe, who portrays Van Houten, is also a prominent figure onscreen, but I think that the character could have played by someone older or more distinguished, and inevitably, looks more depressed than Dafoe could look.
I like the way it was shot. The camera focuses on the characters at the right time, and how it cuts at the right places. I like those speech bubbles that appeared on screen. Josh Boone wasn't adventurous with his style, he played it safe, which is a good thing for this film. The flow of everything was great. I like the opening credits - while it does play to your emotions, it also gives you an inkling of what the viewer is in for, which then further manipulates our emotions in the upcoming scenes. Although I said it was shot well, there were some scenes that looked slightly awkward. An instance of this was their intimate scene in the Anne Frank House. While the Anne Frank House tour played a turn in the relationship of Gus and Hazel, it’s not logically sound to have a girl dragging her oxygen tank climb steep stairs - and a different cut could have been taken (I don’t think it was shot in one long take).
Despite little detail flaw, or some scenes that could use a different cut, the movie is still wonderful. It's not disappointing to the ones who've read the novel, as the film was faithful to its source. It was hard not to like the film as the actors portrayed the characters very well. The writing was great. The movie did not disappoint, and it did live up to its hype.
Final Word: It was great. The source material was great, and it's rare that a film adaptation would deliver something as good as the novel.
Cast: Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort, Nat Wolff
Cast: Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort, Nat Wolff
Director: Josh Boone