Past the Popcorn provides South King Media with exclusive reviews of Theatrical and Home Video entertainment. We aim to dig just a little deeper than the surface of what we watch.

Boy, I am just on a roll, aren’t I? Paddleton, The Fountain, Seven Pounds… and now The Fault in Our Stars. Four out of five Tuesdays, I’m writing about films about dying! How uplifting!

But seriously… we are all in the business of dying, right? And dealing with that intelligently makes the living we do all that much better.

And heck! It’s not like I set out to find films about dying to write about! These just happen to be what I’m watching, and what I feel is worth writing about.

The Fault in Our Stars is a film I’ve been vaguely conscious of for quite a while. Released in 2014, it’s certainly one my late wife and I should have seen, given that she was already in the 10th year of her own terminal illness by that point… and I’m kind of shocked that no one ever grabbed us and said, “Hey, guys! You simply have to see this!” But I suppose that’s because we really didn’t know anyone else who was going through the whole terminal illness thing.

And as the film’s heroine, Hazel Grace, says of the story’s reclusive author Peter van Houten, Fault is a story told incredibly well by people who have never experienced terminal illness… so it’s entirely possible that this film really only connects well with those who have touched these things up close and personal. If you haven’t lived it, you might like the film well enough, but not so much that you tell all your friends about it.

So, yeah… the basic story is that Hazel and Augustus meet in a terminal illness support group for teens… and fall in love. She’s dealing with cystic fibrosis, and he’s dealing with bone cancer. How do you invest in other people who are dying… especially when you, yourself, are also dying? The film is a lengthy, detailed, sensitive, stirring, and literate examination of that question.

But that really comes back to what I already observed: that the decisions we make about how we will face death–our own, and the death that takes place all around us–will most certainly affect how we live. And without a bunch of spoilers, or ruining a ton of memorable dialogue by quote-dumping, I’ll just remark that the novel-based script which Josh Boone directs here does a fantastic job of portraying a couple of teens who make excellent choices about how to live the moments they do have. If only we could all do as well.

The film is exceedingly well made at every level. Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort star as Hazel and Gus, and more than hold their own. Both have gone on to other high-profile roles, and their chemistry is outstanding; you can tell that they made three films together in quick succession. Others in the cast do just as well, and supporting roles by Laura Dern and Willem Dafoe are noteworthy.

If you want to watch a memorable, heartfelt romance about serious issues–and get a little art while you’re at it, I heartily recommend The Fault in Your Stars. If you’re looking for zombies, car chases, dinosaurs, spaceships, or explosions… well, I don’t know why you’re reading my reviews.

The Fault in Our Stars is available for a small fee on YouTube, Amazon, and iTunes.

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