Film Review: The Fault In Our Stars

I am always slightly weary of films that take a subject matter that should be slightly harrowing, depressive and/or difficult and try to spin it into a light hearted, uplifting tale. They usually end up in this middle ground of being neither one thing or other. And on the surface The Fault In Our Stars appears to be another attempt to portray the melancholia of life, sprinkled with positive happiness.

Like everyone I detest the darkness that life can bring and long with the warmth of it’s antonym and so, while I knew that I am potentially walking into a disaster waiting to happen I will always be drawn to films that mix the view on the realities of life in the hope that there is an overriding sense of positivity that will, for a fleeting moment, remind me of the strength we all have inside us to fight out darkest days. That will make me feel good that life is worth living.

Shailene Woodley & Ansel Elgort - The Fault In Our Stars

However, The Fault In Our Stars never manages to evoke that desire. Simply, it wasn’t actually that depressive and therefore, the positive charm it has to balance the noir tone falls flat as well. It ends up in this very peculiar middle ground where I found myself interested in a story that didn’t feel as sad as I wanted or as happy as I liked. It just ticks along like a slightly monotonous teenage rom-com set in the world of terminal Cancer. It’s a bizarre juxtaposition.

I must pass credit to Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort who take the lead roles. They manage to bring their characters together in a way that while never electric has chemistry and a layer of friendly believability. I warmed into them, I cared about them and I found them charming, entertaining and interesting. I was glad to be getting to spend time with them, to meet their personalities, but I never truly felt I understood what made them tick. I never quite got a sense of morality from them. For the struggle and impending situation they face and live with, I never really felt they looked as ravaged by life. I’ve seen, firsthand, Cancer tear through a family and while those suffering put on a brave face; pushing the boundaries in public before inwardly collapsing in private, this swinging emotional exertion never really felt included in the film.

Dinner - The Fault In Our Stars

I also found the plot of the film just a little bit too meandering and submissive to really be enjoyable. It seemed to be a bucket list of perfection. If you want it you can have it and if someone says no, one mention of Cancer and they instantly give in. Nothing really seems to flow into each other or be backed up by a solid reason for happening. And the longer the film went on the longer the outlandishness seemed to grow. Events and reactions seemingly too good to be true. Too unrealistic.I don’t think it helped that I kept having issues placing the ages and time scales within the story. I still don’t know exactly how old the lead characters are. The lives the characters live, the way they act and talk, I felt they needed to be older than they apparently were. The movie is placed into the hands of characters in their late teens and then drops them into situations where they react like their in their early twenties. And while this mismaturity doesn’t overly effect the film, it does distract and it left me slightly untrusting to the world in which it’s set.

I also found the film long. It’s only two hours but it seemed to constantly drip another scene and another and another as it went. And to start with that’s alright. The pace was good the story felt directional and it kept me interested; but the longer it went on, while never appearing to really stop, or drag it’s feet, it just became relentless. It’s not even a case of feeling like it had gone past natural end points, desperate to make one last comment. It just starts to become slower and slower and slower and by the end of the film, it honestly felt like I’d been subjected to a lot, lot more than the two hours I knew it to be. I was just tired.

Cigarettes On Coffin - The Fault In Our Stars

That’s not my biggest issue though, that I reserve for how the film talks to you. How the narrative is implied. I honestly found the film at times very preachy, pretentious and plastic. It doesn’t help as well that there is a metaphor running through the film that feels briefly clever but is dragged out over and over, until it reaches a level of uncomfortableness that runs parallel to the themes of impending death on which The Fault In Our Stars Is Based. It doesn’t add anything to the film and honestly, goes almost as far as glamourising stupidity.

I think I know why the film seems to suffer in it’s own shadow and that is because it’s scared of upsetting it’s audience. The story is potentially difficult and because it’s wanted to look at the subject in a different way, to present it to a new audience, it’s toned everything down. It knows the age group who will watch this may not be emotionally capable of dealing with the themes if laid honestly bare and so it covers them over, not enough to hide the truth, but enough to fake the reality. And ends up feeling like it’s emotionally cheated you.

I know what Cancer does to those suffering from, and living beside, and while the film has an emotional pull that at times echoes the pain it never stands by it. It constantly runs back to an almost utopian existence of how it wants to think people cope. I liked it, I enjoyed it but I don’t understand what exactly it wanted to be, mainly because I don’t think it knows itself.

7 out of 10 stars (7 / 10)

Posted on by 5WC in Film First Edition

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