One of the most daring things about this story, apart from the fact that it’s about cute kids with cancer, is the way Peter Van Houten is never allowed a redemption. He doesn’t show up with wise, trenchant words of wisdom that make up for his behavior in the past: Hazel shuts him down when he tries to talk, and her actions feel not just justified, but bold and empowering. That’s one way to tell this is a young-adult story: Not only are the teenagers smarter than the adults, the moment where a 16-year-old girl tells a much older, hugely celebrated author to shut up and get the hell out of her car feels fully earned.
The other daring thing is that there’s no cure for Hazel in this story; the film ends with the likelihood that she’s still going to die, and probably not terribly far in the future, either. But where Augustus’ death in a less carefully calibrated story might have been a “You go on, I’ll join you soon” moment, or a way to dun up drama, here it’s proof to Hazel that the world she’s so worried about can go on without her, that death may end one person, but that their loved ones can still go on. That’s a rough tack for any story to take, but it’s an extremely adult one, based more in reality than in the soft fantasy that so often marks death in movies.