The Four Movies That Have Made Me Ugly Cry, Part One: The Fault in Our Stars
Posted on November 29, 2020 Posted by Athena Scalzi 22 Comments
Like most teen girls in the 2010s, I was enamored with The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green. I read it during my freshman year of high school, and the movie came out when I was a sophomore. I also met John Green when I was a sophomore at NerdCon, so that was like, really well-timed (and also an awesome convention and experience all around)!
Before I continue, there will be spoilers for both the book and the movie in this post, though to be fair it’s the same spoiler? Since the movie follows the book pretty decently? Not perfectly of course, but not a bad adaptation in my opinion. Anyways, yes, here is your OFFICIAL SPOILER WARNING.
The Fault in Our Stars was the first book that ever made me cry. I was sitting on my bed reading it, feeling totally fine. Things weren’t going well for Augustus but I knew he was the main love interest so he was safe! No author would ever kill a character that essential, right? Right? The next thing I knew, Augustus was dead and I burst into tears. I ran into my dad’s office down the hall and cried to him about a fictional boy he knew nothing about but I’ll be damned if he didn’t handle my hysterical crying well.
I loved the book. I loved Augustus. I loved the love that he and Hazel had. I loved the book so much that I did an art project for class involving the iconic speech bubbles that say “Okay.” and I memorized the quote about the bigger and smaller infinities of infinite numbers between numbers. I let my friends borrow my copy just so they could join in on the awesomeness that is The Fault in Our Stars.
So, naturally, I was excited for the movie to come out. I knew my mom wasn’t going to read the book, but I figured I could drag her to the movies with me to see it. And little did I know this movie would spark my love of Ansel Elgort, who is not only a good actor but also has a music career not many people know about (you should totally check out “Supernova“).
When we went to the theater, there was a group of six girls my age in the row behind us. I knew that I was about to hear an onslaught of crying. Little did I know I’d be contributing. Not only contributing, but crying so hard that I had to gasp for air between sobs.
There are many, many, many movies that have made me cry. But this was different. I was crying to the point that I was holding my breath in an attempt to stop bawling so much. It hurt how hard I cried.
I haven’t seen the movie since I saw it in theaters, and I never reread the book, either. Some things just hit you hard the first time around, and then after you see it enough times, you become a little numb to it. And I didn’t want that to happen with The Fault in Our Stars. I want it to be forever in my memory as something so impactful that it made me cry when reading it and sob while watching it. I don’t want to be numb to the tragic loss of Augustus Waters, or get used to the scene of Hazel reading the eulogy at his funeral. I want to preserve the sadness, the emotions that were in evoked in me that had never been before.
Like I said, there’s a lot of movies I cry at, but this is one of four that have turned me into a teary, snotty mess. Did you cry from it? Did you like the book or the movie better? Don’t you just adore Augustus? Let me know in the comments, and have a great day!
I was outside of the intended age range for this book, and unlike truly great children’s or YA books, it did not reach beyond its intended range of readers. Here’s some of what I wrote about it when I read it back in 2015:
“This book wasn’t for me. I thought it might be — 10 million fans can’t be wrong — I had heard good things about it, the title stayed lodged in my brain suggesting, and I thought about buying the book several times over the course of this year. So I picked it up, not entirely on impulse, at Berlin’s main train station [I live in Berlin] just before an overnight trip to points south and read it all at once, finishing somewhere between Prague and the Slovak border.
“The Fault in Our Stars is a tale of dying teens in love. Sometimes books aimed at children or young adults will get to the emotional core of an idea or character or event in a way that books aimed at adults will not or cannot. As Madeleine L’Engle put it, ‘You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children.’ A book about death and love and growing up that is aimed at young people can afford to be very direct, and that can pay off by going directly to the heart of the matter. But the flip side of that coin is self-involvement, mawkishness, self-indulgence. A story of dying teens falling in love is an invitation to self-involvement, and I think that’s what most put me off of The Fault in Our Stars, along with the author’s indulgence. …
“The Fault in Our Stars is not a bad book; the dialogue is often zippy and nearly always convincing. The individual scenes are vivid and well put together. The part of the story in which Hazel and Augustus bond over her favorite book is very sweet, particular the contrast with his favorites (a video game adaptation series) and how she comes to like them anyway, reveling in their superficiality. But the accuracy of the teenage dialogue reflects how very absorbed they are in themselves, and that diminished my interest in spending time with these characters.
“The other thing is that, having Doomed his characters in the setup, Green indulges them in almost everything else. There’s a feint toward Hazel not falling in love with Augustus. She says she doesn’t want to be a grenade in other people’s lives, exploding and causing harm all around. She can’t help it in the case of her parents, but she can help it with people like Augustus, so she’s just not going to love him, she’s not, she’s going to stay away from him and save him from herself that way. My eyes rolled, and I wondered how many pages would go by before she got over herself and got together with him. About 20 pages, if I remember correctly. …”
Never read the book, but this 65 year old quite enjoyed the movie. Like you, I was totally shocked when Augustus died, and did indeed cry during the movie (not sure if it was ugly crying or not, though!)
I read this book as a teen, but unfortunately I think it was ruined for me before I even read it. Everyone told me that this book would make me cry/made them cry, etc., so naturally, while I was reading it, I expected one of the protagonists to die. As the book went on, I put on my writerly hat and concluded that since it would be sadder if Augustus died, it was probably going to be Augustus.
So I was pretty numb to any emotion when it happened. I mean these kids were cute, but once I knew the death was coming, I knew not to get attached.
I’m 65 and I really liked this movie, too. I did get teary-eyed but no real crying. The movies that me bawl? Sophie’s Choice and Stella. Both about a mother giving up a child, although the circumstances were drastically different.
Stella gave up her daughter in order to give her daughter a better life, but the action caused both of them extreme pain. As an adult, the daughter wanted her mother in her life, but Stella – I guess Stella thought it was best to stay away. Perhaps she thought the darker elements of her own life would affect her daughter. I had five children myself and I could feel the agony of that decision.
Sophie… what happened to Sophie should never happen to anyone again. The Germans forced her to choose which child would live and which would die. The only way to keep one alive was to let them kill the other, or they would both die. No. Even today, I cannot face such a thing.
I listened to the audiobook but already somehow knew that poor Augustus was In For It. No tears for me, probably because I knew what to expect. I liked the teens and their relationship. Allowing for love in the face of certain death is an awesome thing.
The book that did make me cry – as an adult – was The Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson. Something about the main character’s reaction to a brutal plot development really hit me. Bawl!! Also, I cried at the very end of the movie Life Is Beautiful, when two particular characters are reunited. Both of these developments came as a surprise to me, and hit me right in the boohoos. I don’t seek out tearjerkers, but when they come upon me I’ve learned that going ahead and crying is way better than trying not to cry, because otherwise the inevitable emotion comes out all the stronger!
Ugly cry, definitely! I remember it vividly because I was on an airplane and had no tissues, having had absolutely no reason to believe I would be sobbing. I don’t think I went into the book with any expectations — I’m going to say someone recommended it to me, because I would have been well outside the appropriate age range, but I don’t remember who and I didn’t know anything about it. It was just a quick, light, airplane read. Ha. I never saw the movie, though, because I generally hate movies based on books I cared about. Howl’s Moving Castle is a great movie, but it took me years to love it, because it just was NOT the book I loved. I need to think of them as completely separate things in order to appreciate the movie.
Old Yeller got me- my sister told me how it ended when I was two-thirds of the way through the book. 50 years later- she is still not forgiven.
I’m an easy crier – I read the book in my uni common room and sat there crying over my iPad, then (perhaps inadvisably) went to see the movie the next day with a bunch of cancer kids. The entire theatre was crying kinda quietly then I just remember that one girl SOBBED once and the theatre broke out into kinda hysterical laughter. I doubt I’ll read or watch it again, it hits a little close to home.
I haven’t read the book or seen the film, but I understand what you mean. First book for that kind of hard cry for me was, understandably, “Charlotte’s Web,” at 7or so. What got me wasn’t that she died as much as that she died alone, in that empty, used up place. “No one was with her when she died.” It still makes me misty typing this.
For films it was, of all things, “West Side Story.” I was around 12 or 13 and liked musicals but hadn’t seen it so watched, and it was like a punch to the gut. And I’ve never watched it a second time, although I haven’t haven’t ruled it out one day.
Yes, the book and movie made me cry, and I’m not an easy crier. But what made me cry in the movie was her mom. I’m a mother and my kids weren’t much older when the movie came out, and it just gutted me what Hazel’s mom was going through.
Also? Fuck cancer.
Dana Stabenow is a great author, she writes several mystery series. In her Kate Shugak series, about 6 or 8 books in, she kills off the perfect-for-her-heroic-handsome-cool love interest of the main character. It’s sudden and hits you in a single page-turn. The first time I read it I screamed out loud “SHE DID WHAT?????” and threw the book across the room. (good thing that was before Kindle) I was livid with rage at the author, as if she’d violated some sacred author/reader vow. Over a fictional guy/couple. It took me a while to pick up the book again, whereupon I had to read it several times to confirm that yes, Ms. Stabenow had indeed carked this crucial character. Way to shake thing up.
You’ve got to watch authors every minute. They can be tricky.
Now I have bad news for you. If you’re anything like me, you get MORE sensitive as you age to sad situations in literature and video. Empathy grows, I suspect.
I don’t consider myself a crier. I cried watching Old Yeller as a kid. I used to cry every time I heard “Morningside” by Neil Diamond. I cried the entire time watching The Normal Heart, even before anything sad happened. I wasn’t crying for the characters but for the real life friends, acquaintances, and relatives that I lost from AIDS.
I think there has only been one book that made me bawl. The book was On The Beach. I was still in high school. I picked the book out from my father’s library. I read it stoically, and when I got to then end I put the book down in my lap. I sat there for a minute or two and then burst into tears. Here was an author who announced at the beginning that death was coming. Then there was a glimmer of hope that maybe there was a chance to survive. Much of the book is about following that lead. In the end, though, everyone dies. Every character in the book. Every human on the planet. Two minutes after closing the book, I felt the weight of realizing that we as a species might be able to cause our own extinction.
Yes, OLD YELLER! Of course, I am a geezer, but I still remember that one rather than Bambi’s Mom.
I like Green’s books even though I am as far from a teenage girl as you can get. The movie was well done, but it wasn’t the book. This isn’t my favorite of his books, but it was pretty good. And no, it didn’t make me cry. Neither did the movie. What does? When Harry Bailey says, “To my big brother George. The richest man in town.”
My youngest (slightly older than you) loved the book. I’ve never read everything she reads, though there’s a lot of overlap in our tastes (she’s currently reading “The Left Hand of Darkness”), but I do try to check out the things she loves most. I believe the book made me tear up, though I cry relatively easily. (Youngest and I just watched “Happiest Season” a couple of days ago and it made us both tear up in a few spots despite the relatively predictable rom-com plot.) So we went to see the movie as a family when it came out. Often movies need to tell a somewhat different story from the book because it’s a different medium. Both can be very good in their medium, but when both are good, they often diverge in certain ways. That particular book flowed almost seamlessly to the screen if I recall. And the actors were great in it. (And that also means good screenwriting and directing since when those aren’t good, even the best actors look awful.) We definitely cried at the movie too.
“I haven’t read the book or seen the film, but I understand what you mean. First book for that kind of hard cry for me was, understandably, “Charlotte’s Web,” at 7or so. What got me wasn’t that she died as much as that she died alone, in that empty, used up place. “No one was with her when she died.” It still makes me misty typing this.”
I read Charlotte’s Web at about the same age. The ending was such a whiplash of emotions–Charlotte saves Wilbur’s life! But she’s dying! But he takes her egg sack back to the farm! The eggs hatch! But all the baby spiders fly away! Except some of them stay behind! I was a wreck. I cried *so hard.*
These days it’s mostly music that makes me cry. And not only songs about sad or depressing topics, sometimes I’ll tear up over beautiful vocal harmonies or a perfect guitar solo. Or because the song’s become attached to an exterior event, I wrote a chapter for a writing project and when I was done realized Bowie’s “Heroes” would be the soundtrack to the scene and now when I hear the song I think of the scene and it makes me emotional.
(I also ended up with that song stuck in my head for the better part of a week. I’ve had worse weeks.)
The movie was set in Indianapolis but filmed in Pittsburgh, where I grew up. The church scenes were shot at the church that my parents and brother still attend, and at least one scene was shot in the parking lot facing the back of the church, I think they might have been supposed to be outside a school? It’s been a while, but it was neat seeing familiar places pop up.
I’ve neither read the book, nor seen the movie, but it has still made me cry. The building I work in is connected to a children’s hospital, and one day, while getting coffee at the cart there, I saw a teen girl with a patient wristband wearing a Fault in our Stars t-shirt and just totally and completely lost my shit. I had to run back to my desk to cry in peace. John Green helped a lot of people with that book.
Ooh, I like this idea for a series. I haven’t read nor seen “The Fault in our Stars”, but I remember being vaguely aware of it as some sort of tragic romance about teenagers in hospital. I wasn’t interested. Later on I started following vlogbrothers on youtube, and was surprized to find out that one of them wrote it; and I heard the song “Boom Clap” from the soundtrack, and that got me into Charli XCX. So, uh, I still haven’t experienced it, but I have much warmer feelings for it now.
I was listening to the audiobook in the car, and so crying was not only ugly but a little dangerous. (I made it home safely and caused no harm to anyone else.) Loved the book and was very impressed at how well they adapted it for the movie.
I burst into unexpected tears at the end of Robert Graves’s Count Belisarius. Belisarius, who has accomplished so much at so high a cost, blinded and tossed out to beg like so much trash.
I haven’t read it again, and, in truth, his Claudius duology is better. But it was still a gut punch.
I’ve heard great things about TFIOS but never got around to it because MC deaths aren’t my thing.
I’ve had books and movies haunt me, but I can’t say I’ve ever cried.
The films that came the closest were Selena and Boyz n the Hood.
See the clip below to see why the latter film still punches me in the gut.
CW/TW for language and violence. Also, spoilers.
Every kid should have that one heart rending experience with a book; thank you, Athena, for sharing yours. :).com/watch?v=nNHTBUItdGE
Oh, and I was in college when some [mallets myself for profane substitution for the jerk’s government name so your dad doesn’t have to. SM] squatted and dropped one hell of an HP spoiler in the middle of the floor.
This is why, when reading the book in question, I got nothing but that stomach knotting fear I usually experience when headed for the dentist’s office or some other unavoidable unpleasantness.
Rowling’s antics in the Deathly Hollows, though…well. Let’s not speak of those. ☹
You’d think I’d be used to her picking off people I like, but…
Also, here is that link again, this time uninterrupted by text.
I’m also including the stuff that followed the initial one, as that really hammers home the tragedy. (13145) Boyz N the Hood (1991) – Ricky’s Death – Ricky Gets Shot [HD] – YouTube
(13144) Boyz N the Hood (1991) – Ricky Is Dead [HD] – YouTube
I reluctantly discovered ugly crying at about that same age — at a live theatre performance, which was excruciatingly embarrassing. It was a good semiprofessional production of a tragedy called “Royal Hunt of the Sun.” [spoiler] Possibly I already knew what the European invaders did to the Inca, but the Incan Emperor was portrayed by a well-built young man in not a lot of clothing….