Thanks to the expectations placed on us by toxic masculinity, I’m supposed to be embarrassed that anything could make me cry in public. As a man, I’m supposed to eschew sentimentality and embrace the culture of lager, tits, football and banter and absolutely positively no crying.
No one told my tear ducts that.
I’ve always been quick to cry, especially when angry or frustrated. I’m very easily emotionally manipulated, you see, and I wear my heart on my sleeve. If something upsets me, you’ll know it pretty quickly. And what better to push all my emotion-buttons than a movie?
I’ve sat in cinemas fairly often with tears streaming down my cheeks. A noble sacrifice, a pitiful death, even occasionally a happy ending – all can leave me with a lump in my throat. So finding one to single out for any meaningful reason proved quite difficult.
Tonks to the rescue, thankfully – she reminded me of The Fault in Our Stars and why there’s really no other film I could choose for this post. It leaves all the others standing.
That’s not because it’s an especially good piece of cinema – it’s a decent film, entertaining and funny where it needs to be, tragic and moving where appropriate. It was a good adaptation in that it was true to the spirit of the source material if not necessary the letter. As you may know, it’s an adaptation of the book of the same name, written by internet celebrity and YA fiction juggernaut John Green. Though not an uncontroversial figure, John Green’s books have touched the hearts and minds of thousands of young readers, and his YouTube videos are as entertaining as they are educational. The main criticism levelled at his work (aside from an over-dependence on the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope) is that his teenage protagonists don’t sound like teenagers; they’re all precocious and pretentious spouters of cod-philosophy with weird diction. I can’t criticise that too loudly – they sound very much like I did when I was a pretentious self-absorbed teenager who used to read the dictionary for fun, so who am I to judge?
The premise of TFIOS is simple – a teenage girl with terminal cancer falls in love with a teenage boy in remission. Highs and lows, laughter and tears, the tragedy of how life can be cut short all too soon. It’s marketed at teen girls, and when I saw it in the cinema the audience was composed almost entirely of that demographic. The only exceptions? Me, Tonks and someone’s mother who sat next to me. Everyone else was under 20. That was an odd enough experience, because usually when I see a film the audience is relatively diverse.
What made it a memorable experience was that when the credits rolled, cliché though it is, there was not a dry eye in the house. Every single person in the room was weeping. The air was charged with emotion, and it was so weird. A whole room of people, united in an emotional outpouring because of images projected onto a screen.
Of course for some of us the film hit home for very personal reasons. My friend Jamibu died of cancer in 2012 at the tender age of too damned young. As you can imagine, after losing a friend to cancer the subject tends to get a bit touchy, you know? I still miss him, and wonder what he’d make of things like Peter Capaldi’s take on The Doctor, and how things have developed on Game of Thrones.
Life is short, and sometimes it’s good to be reminded of that. Take advantage of the good things in life while you still can.
Go watch a movie that makes you feel something, anything.