Here’s How Not to Cry While Watching The Fault in Our Stars

Photo: Maya Robinson

There are those among you thinking, Why would I cry during Fault in Our Stars? I am an adult. I never cry at movies. And to those people I would say: Just wait. This is a movie about two teens with cancer. It has romance; it has sad Bon Iver songs. It exists just to make you weep. But maybe you don’t want to weep — maybe you have a date afterwards, or maybe you barf every time you cry. If you absolutely have to know what everyone is talking about and you absolutely cannot stand tears, then here is a guide to watching The Fault in Our Stars without crying. Bring an eye mask.

Some tips before you go: the best strategy is probably to focus on Augustus Waters — the boy cancer patient played by Ansel Elgort — and his habit of showing up unannounced and demanding love from people. If you are not swept up in the he’s dreamy and he loves little old me! YA romance of it all, then Augustus is kind of a creeper. Definitely too corny. There’s this cigarette trick he does that is a little silly in the book but really doesn’t work onscreen, possibly because you are too busy studying the odd geometry of Ansel Elgort’s mouth. Anyway: If that doesn’t work, you could spend some time thinking about how inappropriate it is for two teenagers to make out in the middle of the Anne Frank House. This is something that happens in the movie, and some critics have a problem with it. (The parallel with Anne Frank’s diary seems pretty clear? But outrage is seductive.) Should all else fail, try reminding yourself — out loud, at regular intervals — that you are being manipulated. They want you to cry; they made branded tissues for that purpose. But you are not some feelings widget. You cannot be told when to cry. You are in control.

Now for the game-time strategy. (Spoilers abound.)

Close your eyes when:

  • Mom (Laura Dern) and Dad (Sam Trammel) are crowded around young Hazel’s bed
    This is a flashback, so stay vigilant for gauzy filters — you really don’t want to get sucked into the parent sadness too early. If you start feeling like a mom, you will never make it through this movie.
  • a song that sounds just like Bon Iver’s “Holocene” starts playing*
    Shailene Woodley is about to round the corner in a fancy dress for her very first date. Then she gives Ansel Elgort this sheepish First Prom look that connects directly to your tear ducts. If you have to watch, do not look directly at her face.
  • Gus and Hazel start cuddling on the bench in Amsterdam
    Maybe you can shrug off the idea of cancer, but it is nearly impossible to watch a young kid talk about the possible return of his actual cancer without crying. You can open your eyes when you hear slurpy makeout sounds; that part is just nice.

Close your eyes and hum softly to yourself when:

  • Gus has an attack at the gas station and calls Hazel for help.
    He starts choking and then begs her not to call 911. The auditory experience is especially painful here.

Sprint out of the theater when:

  • Hazel tries to leave the house and starts fighting with her mom.
    This is a five-alarm crying scene, but parents in particular, be warned: You should not be within sensory range when Laura Dern tells Shailene Woodley that she’s been taking social-work classes to help other parents. It is brutal. Even the non-criers on Vulture’s staff got weepy at this point.

Come back into the theater, but stand in the back, when:

  • Isaac gives his eulogy at Gus’s pre-funeral.
    Nat Wolff’s a charmer, and this is a very sweet bit about friendship, but you’ve trained for this. You should be able to make it through.

Run the fuck out of the theater and don’t look back when:

  • Shailene begins her eulogy at Gus’s pre-funeral.
    This is the book and movie’s centerpiece — a lovely speech about infinities — and will also probably double as Shailene’s Oscar reel if it comes to that. She is a wonder; it is heartbreaking. I dare you to sit through it.

From this point on, it’s all dying and funerals and love letters from the grave. Maybe you are a monster and therefore strong enough to sit through a teenage girl with cancer giving a speech at her dead boyfriend’s funeral — not the speech she wants to give, but the speech she knows will bring the most comfort to his parents? If so, you can duck back in for the graveside bit and then leave again when Isaac mentions Gus’s letter. But it’s wiser just to skip the last 20 minutes altogether. You can read the last bit at home, alone, where no one will see you cry.

* It turns out that the song in question is not actually “Holocene,” but “Oblivion” by Indians. They sound the same, though.

How Not to Cry While Watching Fault in Our Stars