I saw the trailer for this 2014 movie, but chose to skip it. Then I was surprised by the subsequent good reviews. So when I saw this on the library shelf recently, I just had to borrow it and watch it immediately.
Based on John Green’s New York Times bestselling novel, this movie stars two practically unknowns – Shailene Woodley (as Hazel Grace Lancaster) and Ansel Elgort (as Agustus Walters aka Gus).
The movie opens with an upbeat Peter Gabriel song and Hazel’s narration that Depression is not a side-effect of cancer, it’s not a side-effect of dying and that Pain demands to be felt. She also questions why support groups are a way for people on the same journey – a terminal illness. (She was first diagnosed with thyroid when she was 13, and is now in Stage 4 and has had surgery, radiation and chemotherapy, and her lungs are filled up with water and she can’t breathe.)
But it is at a support group that she meets Gus, an 18-year-old suffering from oesteosarcoma and who lost his right leg below the knee one-and-a-half years ago. Both of them share the same oblivion – watching variety shows on tv, going for doctor’s appointments, taking eight prescription drugs three times a day. He is attracted to Hazel’s aura of sophistication and she likes how he uses the cigarette as a metaphor, always having a pack of cigarettes on him, often with a stick in his mouth – ‘a cigarette doesn’t give you cancer unless you light it up’.
Both of them share a sarcastic sense of humour, a distaste for the conventional, and ultimately a love that sweeps them to an unforgettable journey. Although they both face unlikely challenges, their courage and dedication to each other prove that while life isn’t perfect, love can still be extraordinary.
This is a powerfully moving movie. That Gus plans a pre-funeral is especially poignant: Funerals are not for the dead, they’re for the living. Life is unbearable, but If you want the rainbow, you’ll have to deal with the rain.
Dying sucks. We all want to be remembered. Maybe Hazel wasn’t loved widely, but she was loved deeply.
The visual effects, and the music throughout the movie (I counted 23 different songs, including the well-known classical piece Violin Concerto in F Minor by Antonio Vivaldi) were all used at the right moments that set the tone.