As a general rule, I’m pretty sceptical about book to film adaptations: from previous experience, I very rarely like the film as much, and don’t think I’ve ever actually preferred a film. For that reason, I was a little dubious about watching the film adaptation of The Fault in Our Stars, as I absolutely adore John Green’s novel! However, I have to say, I was actually pleasantly surprised by the film! I felt that it was in most cases, very nearly as good as the book (and that is high praise indeed!), and it felt very true to the spirit of the book.
For anyone who hasn’t read/watched The Fault in Our Stars, it tells the story of Hazel Grace Lancaster, a seventeen year old with terminal lung cancer who attends a support group and meets a cancer survivor called Augustus Waters (aka Gus). The two are instant friends (and later boyfriend and girlfriend), and bond over the unknown ending of Hazel’s favourite novel An Imperial Affliction. Needless to say, as a novel about cancer, it gets pretty weepy (both on page and on screen), so tissues are a requirement!
The film adaptation stars Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort as Hazel and Augustus, and although I wasn’t so sure about this duo when I watched the trailers (especially Augustus!), their on screen chemistry turned out to be one of the best things about the film. Their relationship and instant friendship was believable, and the banter between them was funny, and kept the film from veering into a deep pit of sentimentality and soppiness. I think that the danger with films of this nature (love stories, illness etc.) is that it can easily become soppy to the point of being cringe-worthy. Whilst this is prevented in the book by John Green’s witty writing style, and development of two characters who despite their situations, want to live life to the full, I worried how well this would transfer onto screen, where John Green’s voice wouldn’t be heard. However, I don’t personally feel the film entered this corny, overly soppy territory, and whilst I did find myself shedding a tear or two (or hundreds!), it was in no way cheesy. Gus crying in the car as Hazel insists on calling the ambulance struck me as a particularly heart-breaking moment, and whilst it could have been a cheesy Hollywoord moment, the ugly reality of the situation (eg. excess snot) made it seem more real. Similarly Gus’ off-screen death wasn’t an overly dramatic ‘dying in his lover’s arms’ affair, and Hazel’s quiet reaction to it was heart-rending, and far more effective.
I also felt that some of the secondary roles were perfectly cast. Hazel’s parents (Laura Dern and Sam Trammel) were as over-protective as you would expect with a daughter who has battled cancer for years, but also fun and a little quirky! Nat Wolff as Augustus’ blind friend Issac (one of my favourite characters in the book) was perfect, and Willem Dafoe was great as the misanthropic alcoholic writer Peter van Houten.
I also liked how true to the book the film was. Whilst there were small changes, there were no massive plot re-hauls, which is one of the main things that I hate about many book to film adaptations. I particularly liked the way they had incorporated Hazel telling the story, looping back to the opening scene of her lying on the grass at the end, meaning that despite the tragedy, it is almost like there is some kind of hope. I liked that for such a sad film, it ended on an uplifting note, which kind of reflected the optimism and humour of Hazel and Augustus throughout the book.
The Fault in Our Stars therefore has to be one of the very few book to film adaptations I have actually liked, and whilst I can’t give it a 5/5, as I still can’t say I enjoyed it as much as the book, it gets a definite 4/5. Definitely worth a watch if you haven’t already!