[ Director: Josh Boone; Screenwriters: Scott Neustadter, Michael H. Weber; Starring: Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort, Nat Wolff, Laura Dern, Sam Trammell, Willem Dafoe, Lotte Verbeek; Running time: 126 minutes; Certification: 12A ]
Stuck In Love is criminally underseen. When compared to the hysteria surrounding The Fault In Our Stars’ release it was a mere passing glance in cinemas two years ago, and not a film many talked about thereafter. Yet I was stuck in love with it from the very first moment. Focusing on a family of writers struggling with the trials and tribulations of love over the course of a year, it’s a stroke of character-driven genius which established Josh Boone as a director to look out for due to his incredibly honest and uncanny understanding of the way people behave when love impacts their lives, and his clear ability to coax the most natural, affecting performances from his actors.
While Boone had no part in the writing of The Fault In Our Stars (that job, instead, went to (500) Days Of Summer scribes Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, who adapted it from John Green’s hugely popular novel) his presence is huge. Once again Boone so clearly has a strong bond with his actors, lending to a sense that on set things were very relaxed and supportive. All speculation, of course, but the performances, with such gentle edges, such verisimilitude, lead to a conclusion of that sort. And what fine performances they are from Woodley and Elgort, re-teaming from Divergent, at the center of the narrative.
The film’s success or failure pretty much begins and ends with them, so they’ve done a wonderful job in making us not only believe in them, but care deeply. Ansel Elgort is a star in the making; through his character many of the overarching themes are personified, and he brings such life and exuberance to Augustus, denying us the chance to dislike him or even feel indifferent towards from the very first moments, despite his ostensible arrogance. His rapport with Woodley translates wonderfully to the screen, resulting in a rare film relationship which audiences will genuinely root for until the very end.
The story itself, if very tailor-made (for lack of a better phrase), is beautiful and moving. Cancer and love is always going to create a potent mix – not unlike 50/50 which was powerful in similar ways. What sets this apart from many others is the way it taps into such genuine feelings and situations, often being unafraid to pull forcefully on the heart-strings without resorting to saccharine plot contrivances. Every step of the way we find ourselves entirely wrapped up in the circumstances, yet never feel manipulated. Such delicacy with emotions cannot be overlooked, as it’s a skill few possess.
Despite the reputation steadily being built, The Fault In Our Stars shouldn’t be judged on how much it makes you cry. It’s wonderful to see a film induce such a raw emotion in people, and chances are it will make you cry, but there’s more to it than that. It’s a film full of substance, humour and moxie. While the narrative is terribly sad and tragic, the morals and themes are wholly uplifting. It’s about embracing life and embracing love, no matter what the situation or consequences. There’s such joy in that. As a result, Josh Boone is suddenly one of my favourite directors. Many people make character dramas, few make them so earnestly.