“Maybe she wasn’t loved widely but she was loved deeply… and isn’t that more than most of us get?” – Augustus Waters (The Fault in Our Stars)
It’s hard to find love at the movies.
Well, to be fair, it’s not hard to find what they think love is. Most films seem to have some kind of romance in the story, usually because someone feels like their life is meaningless without it. Then, as the movie goes on, that person finally finds that special someone to meet their needs and they realize what it means to be happy.
But then there’s a film like The Fault in Our Stars.
The Fault in our Stars tells us the story of Hazel Grace Lancaster, a 17-year-old girl who is suffering from life-threatening cancer in her lungs. While her family loves and cares for her, she feels very much alone and lost, feeling that life is something that happens to other people. Eventually, she decides to join a support group for cancer patients (in the ‘literal heart of Jesus’) and it’s here that she meets Augustus Waters, a charismatic young cancer patient who quickly becomes enamoured with her. As their relationship grows, the young couple quickly learns the realities of genuine love in the face of life and death.
Now, on the surface, the story sounds like a lot of other romance flicks.
Think about it.
A timid woman who’s inexperienced at love is drawn to the charisma of a bad boy with a heart of gold. On that level, you could insert pretty much any set of characters and churn out pretty much any film, ranging from The Spectacular Now to the Twilight series to (arguably) Fifty Shades of Grey. In movies like these, ‘love’ usually takes the form of making someone happy with either romance or sex.
Once you’ve got that, everything else is fine. Cue the music and fade to black.
Even though it falls into some of these traps along the way, Fault shows us that love is something else entirely. From the very beginning of the film, Hazel wants us to know that what we’ve been sold about love and pain simply isn’t true. “I believe we have a choice in this world about how we tell sad stories,” she says, “On the one hand, you can sugar coat it, like they do in romance novels or movies. Nothing is too mixed up that can’t be corrected with an apology or a Peter Gabriel song… It’s just not the truth.”
That cuts to the heart of it fairly quickly, doesn’t it?
Still, in this movie, ‘finding love’ isn’t the end goal. While most relationship flicks want us to believe that romance is the thing we’re missing, Fault wants us to understand that love is far more complicated than getting promises and flowers. In fact, the film shows that the mark of real love comes when we’re willing to stand by one another when we’re at our worst.
(By the way, here come the spoilers…)
The love between Hazel and Augustus is rooted in genuine commitment to one another, even in the face of death. As Augustus’ cancer slowly spreads and his health gets worse, Hazel doesn’t run away. She demonstrates real love by her commitment to him in his worst moments of anger, fear, and sickness. She doesn’t stay with Augustus because she feels guilty and she doesn’t run when things get hard. In fact, she’s even thankful that she’s had the experience. “Some infinities are bigger than other infinities. I cannot tell you how thankful I am for our little infinity,” she says.
If that isn’t the best onscreen depiction of 1 Corinthians 13 you’ve ever seen, I don’t know what is.
Hazel’s love for Augustus isn’t some ‘teen crush’ (or vice versa). Instead, it’s rooted in a deep commitment to help the other person become the best version of themselves emotionally and spiritually. To quote the Bible, their love “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things [and] endures all things.” While love is certainly a basic need, too often we’re told that it’s about us.
In Fault though, love is shown to be more about what we can give to the other person than what we take ourselves. While the film doesn’t seem to fully draw the lines to Christian faith—even though much of it takes place in ‘the literal heart of Jesus’—it very clearly depicts what genuine Biblical love is all about.
So, let’s not settle for less.