Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Love in a Time of Cancer

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Love in a Time of Cancer

Article excerpt

The Fault in Our Stars (12A)

dir: Josh Boone

The literary phenomenon of the YA (young adult) novel continues to spill profitably into the multiplexes even now that the sun has set on Twilight. But it's no reflection on the quality of The Fault in Our Stars, the latest film version of a YA sensation, to say that its chances of spawning a franchise are negligible. As the 16-year-old Hazel (Shailene Woodley) warns us from the off, this isn't the happily-ever-after version of life dished up by romantic novels and movies. This, she says, is the truth.

The small trolley that Hazel wheels behind her doesn't contain make-up; the transparent tube clipped to her nostrils isn't the latest unfathomable teen affectation. She has thyroid cancer. Fearing she is depressed, her parents sign her up for a support group. It is here that she meets Augustus (Ansel Elgort), who is in remission after losing half of one leg to osteosarcoma. In another context, Augustus's courtship of Hazel, which involves staring intently at her even once she has begun squirming visibly, then luring her to his basement and firing off discomfiting questions, would form the basis for a run-of-the-mill serial-killer movie. That's surely the best-case scenario for any suitor who delivers with sincerity phrases such as "Welcome to my humble abode" and "I enjoy looking at beautiful people."

That the romantic content of the movie is not jeopardised seriously by our fears that Hazel will end up as a fetching throw in Augustus's cellar is down to the delicate lead performances. Woodley is nobody's victim. She is small and flinty, rather like something that might get stuck in your shoe. Her Bambi-brown eyes are offset interestingly by an abrasiveness and intelligence unusual for a young star. It makes a neat contrast with Elgort. Although his name is redolent of a Bond villain, he is planed and buffed, squishy and smooth: a handsome marshmallow. …

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