The very premise of The Fault in Our Stars, of two good-looking star-crossed lovers battling cancer, destined this film for greatness. Romantic tragedies, such as Romeo and Juliet andTitanic, draw in their viewers by dangling the prospect of true love winning out against a cruel world, and, within this genre, The Fault in Our Stars does not disappoint.
The film’s central characters, Hazel Grace and Augustus Waters, meet at a support group for teenagers battling cancer and fall in love despite the ever-present fact that while everyone on the planet will die, these two lovers may die much sooner than anyone else. You hurt for them, and hope for a happy ending, even as Hazel and Augustus’ sense of morbid humor keeps you from feeling too sorry for them. These are real kids struggling with immense problems, from which the audience wants to see them saved, but the narrator (Hazel Grace herself) regularly reminds us that the world is not fair.
The film, subsequently, probes the question everyone must, at one time or another ask themselves: How do you find meaning in life in the midst of such horrible suffering? Augustus, citing “oblivion” as his only fear, suggests that a life so extraordinary that he will be remembered long after he dies is the way to go. Hazel retorts that since everyone else will die anyway that even Augustus’ grand solution will ultimately fail, and offers no solutions of her own. The support group, meeting, in “the literal heart of Jesus” of a church basement, gives the two lovers material for jokes about organized Christianity. God is not offered as one of the options for finding meaning in life.
So, how does one find purpose, when the world regularly reminds you of its indifference? (**Spoiler**) The movie ends as Hazel reads the eulogy Augustus wrote for Hazel’s funeral, should hers come first, and professes his undying love for her. Meaning in life comes from relationships with people you care about, particularly those you fall in love with and allow yourself to be vulnerable, intimate, and ultimately hurt by. “The Fault in Our Stars,” a line itself lifted from Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar,” suggests that while life is unfair, the main problem lies with us and our eagerness to wall ourselves up from the problems created by real love.
This is, seemingly, the best solution in a cruel world devoid of God, or at the least the God depicted in the film and discarded by Hazel Grace and Augustus. A pretty lame support group counselor offers the only perspective of the hope that lies outside of us and seems easy enough to discount. Perhaps, it’s what the movie doesn’t say that leaves the most lasting impression: without God, life is meaningless, aside from the meaning you make up for yourself.