Hazel (Shailene Woodley) is your typical teen: wise beyond her years, doesn’t have to go to school, and walks around with an oxygen tank. She’s a feisty truth-teller, even if pretty much the only thing she does do with her life is go to a cancer support group that she secretly mocks. Hey, lay off: she’s got cancer, don’t you know? Then one day hot guy Gus (Ansel Elgort) turns up at one of her meetings and starts making serious eyes at her. Luckily it turns out that while Gus had cancer, he’s totally in remission and he only lost his lower right leg so there’s still a whole lot of him to love. But dare they risk falling in love when life is so precious and fragile and they could die at any moment?
Impressive in its ruthless and methodical approach to tugging on the heart-strings, The Fault in Our Stars never stops coming up with new ways to make you cry. Cancer teens don’t impress you? How about multiple flashbacks to the time when a much younger Hazel almost died and her sobbing parents said it was alright for their little girl to “let go”? And in the present day the parents (Sam Trammell and Laura Dern) get plenty of other chances to remind you that having a dying child is no fun.
Things never get too icky, though. Hazel is occasionally panting due to lack of breath but she never coughs up blood or anything, while Gus’s missing foot only causes the occasional limp. But the romance is really only secondary to this film’s endlessly inventive efforts to make the viewer bawl: it’s a movie where even the comedy relief best friend (Nat Wolff) gets dumped by his girlfriend then goes blind.
The highlight of this film comes when, for reasons best left unexplained, Gus and Hazel find themselves visiting Anne Frank’s attic hideaway. Once they get there, to celebrate their love and Hazel’s ability to climb stairs, Hazel and Gus make out as everyone else starts clapping. Seems like cancer trumps Nazis.