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“The Fault in Our Stars” – Why It’s Not Just Another Cancer Movie

Recently I went to see the new (well, not so new anymore) movie, “The Fault in Our Stars.” Generally, I drag dear hubby along to movies I really want to see and I really wanted to see this one. Luckily, he likes just about any kind of movie and doesn’t seem to mind even when I want to see a cancer movie. Due to busy summer schedules, it didn’t work for both of us to go this time, so I decided to just go by myself.

Going to a movie alone was an interesting experience in and of itself. I’m not sure if I’ve ever gone to a movie alone before…

I doubt there are many out there who haven’t heard of this movie or the book by now. But in case you haven’t, the movie is based on the best-selling book of the same name by John Green. The movie stars Shailene Woodley as Hazel, a teenager who’s been dealing with a cancer diagnosis since she was a young child, but who is presently holding her own as a stage 4 patient. Ms. Woodley’s performance is a worthy one. Gus, the other half of the star-crossed pair, is played by Ansel Elgort, who also portrays his role convincingly. The two teens meet at a support group for young people with cancer (yes, Gus had cancer too and also has a prosthetic leg as a result) and they fall in love. There’s also a solid performance by Nat Wolff, who plays the part of a third teen character who also had a cancer diagnosis. His cancer ultimately leaves him blind. So yes, there’s a three-some in this movie with lots of cancer baggage, but yet you don’t focus on the baggage, or at least I did not.

I took my seat in the theater with my pockets well stocked with tissues, but I was sort of surprised that I didn’t need them too much. In my mind this is a good thing because who really wants to come out of a move, even a cancer movie, with red swollen eyes?

This does not mean I didn’t shed some tears. I did. There were some really moving scenes. However, the fact that the movie was not over-the-top emotionally speaking, is a good thing. It means it’s more than just another someone’s dying of cancer tear-jerker type movie.

If all you do is get caught up in the sadness of a movie, you become emotionally exhausted and it’s a lot harder to focus on other messages hidden in there and I thought there were some good ones.

Such as?

Primarily, of course, the movie showcases that young people do indeed get cancer too. Young people die from cancer every day. Cancer is not just an older person’s disease. This obvious fact must never be forgotten.

The movie is a fine example of how the entire family is impacted by a cancer diagnosis. And when the family member is one of the children; well, the heartache is almost unimaginable. But again, real families are dealing with this every single day. I felt both sets of parents were portrayed quite believably in the movie, except for one thing, which I’ll address later.

Despite the cumbersome oxygen tank Hazel dragged around every where she went and despite the tubes in her nose, when I looked at her while watching the movie, I didn’t think only about cancer. Of course it helped that the actress portraying Hazel was beautiful, but I didn’t just see cancer as I observed her performance of Hazel’s character. Rather I saw things in the character like maturity, wisdom beyond her age, strength, and inner beauty. Yet at the same time, I didn’t see perfection, or rather I didn’t see someone exemplifying the “perfect way to do cancer”or teen-age life for that matter either, which was refreshing and honest.

More than a cancer movie, the movie is a love story. Since it’s a love story about two teenagers who both have cancer, that adds a whole new dimension of course, but it’s still first and foremost a love story and love is always stronger than cancer, even in a book/movie plot.

I loved how the movie showcased teenagers who had a passion for reading, embracing their quirkiness, dreaming and following that dream. I like giving young people credit for things like that. Too often we don’t. Plus, they got along fine with their parents. How often do movies about teenagers present this as normal?

My favorite scenes by far were the ones in the Anne Frank Huis. I was very moved when I observed the characters taking the tour and especially when the camera focused in on the images of the Frank family hanging on the wall. The Diary of Anne Frank has always been one of my favorite books. Anne Frank’s legacy remains a phenomenal gift to the world. You could still sense the power of her legacy coming through in a movie all these years later.

Which brings us to that whole legacy thing…

Hazel and Gus had different ideas about how they wished to be remembered when they were gone and they talked about this. They even had a sort-of heated discussion about it. There’s a great lesson for us all in there; in fact ultimately, this is perhaps the movie’s main message, at least it was for me, that your legacy has meaning and is not based on how many years you live or how many lives you impact.

You don’t need to impact a great many people to make a difference and to be remembered, impacting just one other person can be enough. You don’t need to do great things either; just caring for someone and allowing someone else to care for you can be enough.

So all in all, I give this movie a thumbs up. It’s not perfect, but what movie is? As a mother, I found it a little out there that these two sick teenagers would be left alone to meander around Amsterdam by themselves (that was the one thing I mentioned earlier), but I found myself just going with it… That’s what you do in movies, right?

I’m glad Hollywood is tackling movies about cancer at least somewhat more realistically these days. I don’t expect documentary-type productions or necessarily Oscar contention performances when watching a cancer movie, or any movie for that matter. But I do always appreciate a good story. And overall, this one was pretty good.

If you haven’t seen this movie yet, go ahead and see it.

I think you’ll like it too.

Have you seen this movie (or read the book) and if so, what was your favorite part?

What did you think was the movie’s (or book’s) main message?

Do you go to movies alone?


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18 thoughts on ““The Fault in Our Stars” – Why It’s Not Just Another Cancer Movie

  1. i saw the movie alone and felt as if i had friends with me…
    it’s an important piece and i hope it helps the cause,
    you know, the one pushing love and beauty.
    you did great work nancy!

  2. I have not seen the movie, but the book has a place by itself in my heart. I laughed as a fellow cancer patient (even as a middle-aged woman) at so many parts that are true for all of us – perks of being in the cancer club, the ability to enjoy gallows humor (Too bad I got really hot after you went blind);. But I cried as a mom, imagining how I could possibly cope with a child dying of cancer. Trying to stay positive and loving when the best thing you ever made is being destroyed and there is nothing you can do, but hope and make counted cross stitch samplers with aphorisms of love and hope. And watch him or her go away forever.

    1. Jane, You’re so right about those parts that ring true for all of us and also about the heartbreak when one is the parent of a child with cancer… unimaginable pain, but many are facing that. Thanks for reading and sharing some thoughts. I actually just bought the book. Doing things in reverse I guess!

  3. Just finished reading the book during vacation- I could relate to much of the cancer scenes. I didn’t go to support groups for the reasons that Hazel hated going. I loved the Amsterdam part the best. It was a great read.

    1. Ann, Glad to hear you recommend the book as I just bought it. It’s true, sometimes support groups are lacking, but at the same time, if we don’t show up or speak up, how can they improve? And you never know how what you say or do might help someone else who’s attending. Thanks for reading my review.

  4. Sounds great, but I still think I can’t watch it. Though your review makes it sound quite good. Well, maybe one day I’ll catch it. 🙂

    Thanks for the review, Nancy! ~Catherine

  5. Very thoughtful review. Wish we lived closer, once again. I go to the movies at least once a week. I have a movie buddy. I have gone to movies alone, concerts, plays. But I prefer going with a friend.

    1. Betty, Yes, living closer would be nice. I still remember going to movies with you… A movie buddy sounds like a great idea, although I discovered it wasn’t too awkward for me to go alone. Still, it’s nicer to go with someone. Thanks for reading and commenting. I hope you see the movie. I think you’d like it.

  6. Hi Nancy,

    I loved this thorough, excellent review. I don’t think I could bring myself to see the movie or read the book, though. It would be too difficult for me.

    I love Anne Frank, and that part seems to make me want to see the movie.

    As far as going to movies alone, I love doing this. It’s great to go with a friend/spouse/significant other, but for some reason, I’m fine going alone. Unfortunately, I don’t get out much to movies, but your review makes me want to make the time to see a good movie when my daughter is at school and I’m not!

    1. Beth, I liked the movie and even bought the book and usually I don’t buy a book after first seeing the movie. I imagine you are seeing more movies geared toward a very young audience these days. Let me know if and when you ever do see this one. Thanks for reading and sharing.

  7. Hi Nancy,
    I saw it by myself as well and also felt very similarly to how you felt. I thought it was well done, and the 2 main characters were lovely. I liked the book better (I always like books better than movies) but thought that overall the movie was well done. My favorite movie about the experience of going through cancer was 50/50 with Joseph Gordon Levitt which I found to be very true to the experience and I happen to just love that Joseph Gordon Levitt 🙂

    1. Claudia, I have the book to read too now. Doing it backwards I guess. I really liked 50/50 too. Not sure which I liked better… Have to think about that. Thanks for reading my review and for commenting too.

  8. I often go to movies by myself. I’ve been doing it so long I can’t remember if it ever seemed weird. It has its pros and cons. It’s a nice thing to share, but you’re not supposed to talk during a movie anyway, so it’s a pretty good solo outing.

    As for The Fault in Our Stars, I loved both the movie and the book. There were some deep insights about cancer culture and the subgenre of cancer literature: the noble “cancer warrior,” the “last good day,” among others.

    I agree with you that it’s primarily a love story, and a very good one. Since it’s classified as “young adult fiction,” I think it would give young people some really good food for thought about love and loss.

    1. Mae, I bought the book, too, after I saw the movie. I sort of forgot about that. I will eventually get around to reading it. I liked the movie quite a lot. Glad to hear you did too. Thanks for reading mu review.

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