MESSAGE IN THE MOVIES
Photo By 20th Century Fox
Directed by Josh Boone. Starring Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort.
Every teenager expects to live forever – that’s part of the plan – with your whole life ahead of you. That’s why communities so often gather en masse when children or youth die from traffic accidents, suicides, or illness.
Living with cancer is especially challenging, because the future is always unknown. Between every surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation treatment there is the chance for remission or cure. Either you give up or decide to hold onto life. It is a testimony to God’s gift of life and the miracle of medicine that so many decide to not only survive but to pray and work for a cure.
Hazel Grace Lancaster (Woodley) and Augustus Waters (Elgort) are cancer patients who meet cute during a support group that takes place in a church basement. Hazel is an intelligent woman who is battling thyroid cancer but desires pity from no one. Gus lost a leg to sarcoma but is currently in remission; he is every girl’s dream of a perfect man: chivalrous, funny and kind.
The cast is uniformly good, with Shailine Woodley (also great in 2011’s The Descendants) giving another standout performance.
John Green’s bestselling novel is that rare YA book that is entertaining and touching to readers of all ages (including myself). Green writes in an engaging and intelligent fashion and his characters are well-read and worldly wise (and who know the quote from Shakespeare that is cited in the book’s title). Hazel feels dorky and awkward but is also self-reliant. As Gus courts her with undivided attention, Hazel’s world becomes one that readers (especially girls) can identify with.
Many YA bestsellers (including the Twilight books) are about adolescent self-centered wish fulfillment. But, when you write for teenagers, why not? The fact that the book and film of The Fault in Our Stars are willing to work cancer into the formula is a sign of its exuberant bravery and wisdom. The book notes: “The world is not a wish granting factory.” But you can still choose to live an extraordinary life.
God is neither proclaimed nor disregarded in this story, but you will have to look in the margins to find the transcendent. Hazel’s middle name should tip you off that there is always hope.
Four halos: A romantic teen film that happens to include cancer, mortality, and questions of faith.
Two pitchforks: It also includes brief scenes of teenage sexual activity and PG-13 swearing.
Rev. Bruce Batchelor-Glader
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