Teen weepie The Fault In Our Stars is a disingenuous affair.
In the introductory voice-over, we are promised by its very engaging young heroine Hazel Grace Lancaster (Shailene Woodley) this won't be the typical terminal illness melodrama that “sugar coats” the characters' afflictions and uses schmaltzy music to tweak the heartstrings.
It is not a promise the film keeps as it sinks slowly into gooey mawkishness.
The film, already a big success in the US, is adapted from John Green`s bestselling novel about a love affair between two young cancer victims. Hazel and Augustus Waters (Ansel Elgort) meet in a support group and immediately strike up a rapport. Early on, it plays like a contemporary equivalent to one of John Hughes' bratpack films.
It is smartly written, with an engaging line in deadpan irony and fatalism. The young leads are refreshingly unsentimental about their condition and have a sense of rebelliousness and mischief, especially when their parents try to mollycoddle them.
It is only after a trip to Amsterdam and a meeting with Hazel's favourite author Peter van Houten (Willem Dafoe) that the sentimentality really becomes cloying.
A trip to Anne Frank's house marks a nadir as the film slowly turns into the kind of manipulative, lachrymose melodrama that Hazel herself professes to detest.
Josh Boone, 126 minutes, starring: Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort, Laura Dern, Willem Dafoe