The Fault in Our Stars hits cinemas today, and if the steady stream of sniffles heard in the screening we attended is anything to go by, it’s destined to join the likes of The Notebook and Titanic as a soppy romance classic. Based on John Green’s crossover Young Adult bestseller, the love story is one that shows a level of maturity and wisdom not usually associated with its predominately teen audience. Shailene Woodley is brilliant as Hazel Lancaster, terminally ill and living on borrowed time, playing the role with the perfect amount of boldness and vulnerability, while Ansel Elgort is positively charming as Augustus Waters, the most articulate and gallant teenage boy to exist, ever. (Seriously, where were the Augustuses of the world when we were 16?) The on-screen chemistry between the two is palpable, and the sassy banter they exchange lends lightheartedness, saving the film from falling into dangerously weepy territory.
Having already had numerous near-death experiences between them, the pair are wise beyond their years, earnestly exploring themes of human existence, futility and the importance of living in the present. Because they’re young and because they’re dying, their relationship carries a sense of urgency, heartbreakingly encapsulating the intensity of young love. As with nearly all adaptations, nuances from the novel are glossed over, but fans of the novel will not be disappointed. Penned by the same writers responsible for the comparatively endearing (500) Days of Summer and The Spectacular Now (which also stars Woodley), the screenplay never strays far from the source material, and has the potential to be the Love Story for Gen Y. The film celebrates the spirit of the novel, capturing the emotional weight of simultaneously experiencing first love and being forced to face mortality at an unjustly young age, never once venturing too far into the maudlin or exploiting its cancer theme for pathos. Hazel and Augustus are determined to prove that you don’t have to live a long life to have a powerful and meaningful one. Have your tissues at the ready.