Typifying this generation’s parents are Laura Dern and Sam Trammell in the book-to-film adaptation of “The Fault In Our Stars” from author John Green and director Josh Boone.
The film follows Hazel(Shailene Woodley) and Gus (Ansel Elgort) as their relationship develops and they set off on a surprising and exciting journey to Amsterdam. Laura Dern, who plays Frannie, Hazel Grace Lancaster’s mother in the film. “What I love about the story is that it is not about cancer; it is about falling in love and being true to who you are, not apologizing for yourself,” says Dern.“It is about believing in the moment and really honoring the joy of the moment, no matter how bad everything might look. And those are themes we all need today.”
Together with her husband Michael, played by Sam Trammell,Frannie is a devoted mother, coping with an enormous challenge. Hazel (Shailene Woodley),the couple’s only child, has cancer. They want their daughter to live life to the fullest. Frannie encourages Hazel to attend a support group, where she can get together with other teenagers in a similar situation. Hazel agrees to go along, with some reluctance. While there, the pretty and intelligent girl catches the eye of the very attractive Gus Waters. Gus is in remission, but has accompanied his best friend Isaac (Nat Wolff) to the meeting. There is an immediate connection between Hazel and Gus. Gus is funny, confident and irreverent. Both are independent spirits with strong views on the world. They start seeing each otherand before long find themselves falling in love.
Given their health concerns, inevitably life is not easy for the pair, but like any other teenagers, Hazel and Gus simply enjoy being together.The film is inspiring and deeply moving but often humorous and not at all sentimental. It’s an authentic story that celebrates the precious moments in life.
Apart from Hazel’s friendship with Gus and Isaac, her world is very small. Due to the restrictions placed upon her by her illness, Hazel spends much of her time with her parents, Frannie, played by Laura Dern, and Michael, played by Sam Trammell.
“Frannie and Michael are good parents who love their daughter and take really good care of her,” says Green. “But they are facing the reality of her illness. At times it makes them a little bit like ‘helicopter’ parents, who hover over their daughter.
“At the same time, Hazel’s illness allows Frannie and Michael to be freer with Hazel than most parents would be with their teenage daughters,” he continues. “They don’t worry as much about some of the relatively minor things that other parents worry about, like the guys their daughters are dating, because there are bigger concerns in their lives. So that makes for an interesting dynamic between Hazel and her parents.”
Laura Dern felt a strong connection with her on-screen daughter. “When I met Shaileneit was like being with family, which is rare.” Dern says. “Something in John Green’s writing and in Shailene’s personality made us kindred spirits. Like Hazel and Frannie, Shailene and I are a bit obsessive about eating the healthiest ways possible and making sure there are no environmental toxins around us. That infuses our characters and our friendship.”
Sam Trammell also appreciated the connections between the parents and their daughter. “Hazel is almost as much of a caretaker to her parents as they are to her,” he says. “One of the things that struck me about the story was how Hazel is primarily concerned about the people she’ll be leaving when she passes, especially her parents. The most troubling thing to her is how her illness affects others, and I think that’s a beautiful notion.”