Hazel and Gus are two teenagers who share an acerbic wit, a disdain for the conventional, and a love that sweeps them on a journey. Their relationship is all the more miraculous given that Hazel’s other constant companion is an oxygen tank, Gus jokes about his prosthetic leg, and they met and fell in love at a cancer support group.
Clearly made for a teen audience – which is fine given the book was written for young adults. I, and the three people with me, must have been the oldest members of the audience. And judging by the laughter and audible crying going on, the young crowd were thoroughly engaged. The script follows the book almost rigidly so there are no surprises for those of us who’ve read it. Even so, the story has been competently transferred to the screen with the two lead actors (Shailene Woodley as Hazel; Ansel Elgort as Gus) to a good job of their roles and are quite believable. Woodley (most recently seen in DIVERGENT) is particularly nuanced in portraying a a rich character with depth and sensitivity. Willem Dafoe puts in a good turn as van Houten. While the story is emotional and moving, the screenplay avoids soppiness and the themes of grief, dying, and friendship are handled honestly and directly. The developing friendship between Gus and Hazel is natural and fresh. The lighting was a bit harsh throughout and looked too “clean”. Given the themes I would have liked a bit more grittiness in the cinematography. Overall, I think readers of the book will be happy. For those who haven’t, it’s a gentle piece of entertainment. Make sure you take some tissues.