Today I went out to see a film on the spur of the moment. I didn’t even know that I was going to go out and I certainly didn’t know that I was going to see this particular film. I was minded to go and see the film ‘Chef’ but then I saw that ‘A Fault In Our Stars’ was showing and I remembered it from the trailer I saw a month or so earlier which in itself is something of a feat.
It’s impossible to give even this brief film review without giving away some key points so if you haven’t seen this movie and you don’t want to know any more about it then why not go and read one of my 202 earlier posts :-)
The Fault In Our Stars is a film based on the book of the same name by John Green. The last film I watched was also an adaptation of a book ‘The Two Face of January’ and before that the delightful ‘The Book Thief”. Somewhere in between I did watch and enjoy The Grand Budapest Hotel which I thought was amazingly quirky and just by scene but I always have room in my heart for something more substantial.
I liked the Book Thief, I really did and I can’t wait to watch it again. I probably won’t be watching ‘The Fault In Our Stars’ not because it was awful but because it was wonderful and I don’t know if I can handle that sort of wonderfulness again.
The first lines make it clear that this isn’t going to be a typically Hollywood sweet film where everything can be made better by a kiss or a feel-good tune.
The film is about two teenagers who have been stricken by cancer. Hazel who seems to be terminally ill but in a somewhat stable state and Augustus who made it through a tough battle with the disease which saw him lose half of a leg but regain his life.
Hazel is diagnosed with depression but she knows she isn’t depressed, she is just naturally unhappy that she is slowly dying. Reluctantly her mother makes her go to a cancer therapy class full of unfortunate people with different and often deadly diseases. Hazel hates these meetings and only attends them to keep her parents happy, one of the many things she does for them even though with so little time left to her ideally she would be out going to bars, getting drunk and trying drugs.
Her life changes when she meets Augustus. Augustus is a handsome young guy who is full of life and has ambitions of making it big somewhere and to be remembered. Despite the loss of his limb, he has been given the all-clear from cancer and his only their for his friend who is to have his second eyeball removed in an attempt to rid his body of the horrid disease.
Hazel and Gus are immediately taken with each other. Gus is brash, cocky and likes the things many boys do, driving cars, playing video games and reading sci-fi novels. Hazel on the other hand is quiet, resigned to her fate and her favourite novel is An Imperial Affliction which deals with the terminal decline of its main character.
Hazel reveals that she has cancer thyroid cancer that has spread to her lungs and the pair make a pact that they will each read the others favourite book. Gus despite his protestations loves An Imperial Affliction and is distraught at its ending in mid-sentence. Their joint love of the book allows the pair to set up a friendship and eventual romance as Gus helps Hazel live a little.
Gus succeeds where Hazel has tried many a time in contacting the author of An Imperial Affliction when he gets an email back from him. Hazel writes to him two asking for the answer to one or two questions. The author, Peter Van Houten, says he will only answer the questions in person should Hazel ever go to Amsterdam.
Gus finds it hilarious that Hazel used her wish from the “Make A Wish Foundation” several years earlier to go to Disneyland and so in the clear himself, Gus uses his wish with the foundation to arrange a trip to Amsterdam. However Hazel suffers a serious setback and is hospitalised. Though her untested medication has stabilised her cancer, it is at a dangerous level and she is told she cannot fly.
Hazel finds it hard that she is going to break her parents heart and so does her best to distance herself from Gus but he isn’t going to have any of it and in truth Hazel loves him and is only happy in his presence.
Hazels parents appeal to the hospital who at last give the ok to go on a short visit to Amsterdam and with that Gus hires a stretched limo to pick Hazel and her mother up and take them to the airport.
Amsterdam is a dream come true, the young couple have the best time despite hazel having to drag around an oxygen cannister. Van Houten treats them to an all expense spared meal and the pair are thoroughly excited at going to meet their hero. The problem is that when they meet him, the author is a total ass. He is an alcoholic and the pleasant correspondence was all through his charming PA who thought that meeting some fans might help Van Houten with his own all to real problems. Instead the author berates the pair in a quite vicious scene and the teenagers leave shell-shocked and heartbroken.
Hazel is sorry that she has wasted Gus’s wish but Gus is insistent that the wish wasn’t wasted as the pair are having the trip of their dreams. The pair are taken by an apologetic PA to Anne Franks house where despite her terrible illness which sometimes looks like it will make it collapse, the words of Anne Frank inspire Hazel and the pair kiss. That evening, Hazel even solves Gus’s dilemma of never having had sex, after all who wants a one legged teenager. I guess the answer to that is someone who loves him.
After an awkward breakfast, Gus tells Hazel he has something important to tell him. His cancer that was apparently gone, re-appeared in tests just before their trip and his cancer test scans showed up like a Christmas tree all over his body. Now he is the one dying and Hazel is still stable.
Back in America, the pair try to live life to the full but the end is near for one or both of them. Gus, previously suave and full of life has lost his humour and is sad he never will get to be remembered. Hazel insists he will always be remembered by the person who loves him, herself.
In his last days the pair go for picnics, have their now blind friend through eggs at the car of the girl who ditched him due to hiss illness and prepare for the funeral of Gus. Gus wants to be at his own funeral, not just as a ghost but to here is friends talk about him at church.
A moving scene takes places whereby his friend Isaac talks of how he wouldn’t want to see again if Gus wasn’t alive in it followed by a wryly humorous and heartbreakingly sad soliloquy is offered by Hazel.
That night, Gus calls Hazel in the middle of the night, he needs help urgently. He is coughing up stuff and his wounds are infected. He begs Hazel not to call 911 as if he wants to die there and then. Of course she calls them and he goes to hospital only to be quickly discharged as he is too unwell for further chemotherapy and 8 days later he dies.
Hazel cries her heart out and at the funeral cannot bear to read out her text she prepared and instead read out something a bit more dappy that Gus’s parents would prefer. That you had to deal with the rain to get to the rainbow. Incredibly Van Houten turns up at the funeral, apparently Gus was insistent that he did. He gives Hazel some papers but she wants nothing to do with the man despite his explanation that the girl in his book who suffered and died was his daughter.
Later, Hazel finds out that Gus and been frantically emailing Van Houten in his last days and hadn’t just asked him to attend the funeral but for the authors help for writing his reading that he would have given at Hazels funeral if only he had lived longer.
Panicky, Hazel finds the papers in her car. Gus explains that he is a nice guy but a lousy writer whilst Van Houten is a horrid guy but a great writer and so has gained his help to tell her his inner thoughts. Hazel reads the texts and it gives her closure on her love for Gus and maybe for her own life as well and the film finishes with the words “Okay” which were the pairs abbreviated form of “I will always love you”.
I found the film quite incredible in a different way to the Book Thief. Thankfully I don’t know too many people whose lives were touched by the holocaust though I do know a few. I don’t have any dealings with the Grim Reaper except perhaps in the darkest of nights and when he comes with increasing frequency to the ones I love.
What I do know though is quite a lot about cancer. Pretty much everyone I know who has died, has died from cancer. Most recently my dearest mother who died last year having suffered from it on previous occasions in the last 10 or 15 years.
The reason I don’t expect to watch this film again is because it is too good. Too realistic. Not realistic in the awful medical procedures involved but realistic in the way it is to love someone important that you know is dying and the shock of having apparently cured people quickly then die for it.
The main cast was excellent, especially Shailine Woodley as Hazel Grace who I last saw in Divergent and Ansel Elgort as Gus who also appeared in Divergent.
The film was incredibly funny as life can be when you are terribly ill but are determined to make the most of what you have. The characters were believable and only once in Amsterdam at the restaurant did I feel it got slightly too cheesy. You need meat and cheese to make a great pizza though and this film has plenty of meat too.
I was actually surprised at the abrasive nature of Van Houten who was played by Willem Dafoe even though I knew something had to go wrong (well actually the meeting as during the film lots of things go wrong). His behaviour was shocking quite frankly even given his circumstances. Having said that it’s wrong of us to expect our heroes to live up to our dreams in private. I’ve met all of my Star Trek heroes but must say 2 of them were quite off. I’m talking Neelix from Voyager and Q from TNG. Of course they had reasons of jet-lag for one and the other awful British weather but still but for just a few seconds they could have been pleasant so I didn’t spend the rest of my life making such comments!
The audience at the cinema was sniffling all the way through and two had to leave in the end. I spent most of the film living with Hazel and marvelling at Gus, fully expecting one day for Hazel to die and not for the life of the party Gus so that was a shocker.
It’s given me lots to think about and quite a bit of sadness. If you want the rainbow you have to deal with the rain or so the movie says. What happens if you had the rainbow before the rain? Should you just live your life getting wet or perhaps the rainbow is when you die?
Either way as I wasn’t just sad for Hazel and for Gus but for those real life people I know and have known I’ll have the final words of this post echo those that Gus had for his eulogy to Hazel. She wasn’t loved widely but she was loved deeply. You still are Mama xxx