‘Turtles All the Way Down’ Is a Must-See for Fans of John Green’s ‘The Fault in Our Stars’

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turtles all the way down review
Ryan Sweeney/Max

Navigating adolescence is hard, and I feel like no one gets this more than John Green.

I've read quite a few of his books, and one thing that always stuck with me was his thoughtful approach to the more challenging parts of teenagehood, be it heartbreak, loss, grief or mental health. His coming-of-age stories feature multidimensional characters who are smart and witty and compelling (like the charming Gus Waters), and they always take me through a rollercoaster of emotions. It explains why there are so many great adaptations of his novels, from The Fault in Our Stars to Paper Towns. So, naturally, when I learned that Turtles All the Way Down would also get the Hollywood treatment, I knew I was in for a treat.

Now available to stream on Max, I get the feeling that TATWD is going to be a hit with fans who are familiar with Green's work. Read on for details about the movie and my honest thoughts.

What Is Turtles All the Way Down About?

Directed by Hannah Marks and partially inspired by Green's own life, the romantic drama tells the story of Aza Holmes, a 16-year-old who struggles with anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder. After learning that the father of her childhood crush has gone missing, she teams up with her best friend, Daisy, to investigate and she reconnects with her old crush, David, in the process.

Aza and David's initial reunion quickly blossoms into a romance, but Aza's intrusive, existential thoughts and fixation with bacteria make it more difficult for her to pursue a healthy relationship. Worse yet, Aza is still mourning the loss of her father, which puts a strain on her relationship with her mother.

turtles all the way down review 3
Courtesy of Max

Who Is in the Cast of Turtles All the Way Down?

In the film, Isabela Merced stars as Aza Holmes, Cree plays Daisy, Felix Mallard plays Davis Pickett and Judy Reyes plays Aza's mom, Gina Holmes. Succession star J. Smith-Cameron appears as the brilliant Professor Abbott, and Never Have I Ever fans will recognize Devi's mom Poorna Jagannathan as Ava's kind psychiatrist, Dr. Singh. (FYI, Green also makes a fun cameo.)

turtles all the way down review 1
Ryan Sweeney/Max

My Turtles All the Way Down Review

While The Fault in Our Stars tackles suffering and mortality, Turtles All the Way Down explores the meaning of life and how challenging it can be with a mental illness. And I can tell you that this movie will make you chuckle, cry and contemplate the meaning of life before the credits roll.

Turtles All the Way Down zeroes in on the main character's internal struggles, and it was enough to get me thinking about what it's truly like to live with OCD. Aza's thoughts are often consumed by her fear of germs, and when they spiral out of control, she's practically paralyzed with fear or on the brink of a full-on panic attack.

Marks managed to make me feel as if I experienced those thought spirals right along with her, from her nervous voice-overs to those quick flashes of anxiety-inducing microbial footage. It gets a bit intense and overwhelming at times (for example, when Aza panics and consumes handfuls of sanitizer after kissing Davis). However, it's an eye-opening look at just how crippling this condition can be, especially when it comes to maintaining relationships with loved ones.

Merced's honest portrayal of Aza adds depth to the character, and Cree shines as her loyal, free-spirited bestie. As much as I enjoyed watching Aza's budding romance with Davis, I'm especially drawn to her shared moments with Daisy. Their tight-knit bond feels genuine, and their interactions—which offer a bit of comic relief—make for the most memorable scenes. (For instance, I still can't get my mind off that one scene where they jam out to Outkast's "Ms. Jackson.")

If you, like me, really enjoyed The Fault in Our Stars, then you'll appreciate the parallels in this emotional film. You'll get the smart, philosophical protagonist who's dealing with trauma, a sweet romance and plenty of opportunities to reflect on the purpose of life.

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Ryan Sweeney/Max

PureWow Rating: 4 Out of 5 Stars

This emotional coming-of-age film runs the gamut of emotions and offers a more intimate look at life with OCD. It deftly explores important themes like identity, mental health and friendship, and Isabela Merced and Cree deliver stellar performances.

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nakeisha campbell bio

Associate Editor, News and Entertainment

Nakeisha has been interviewing celebrities and covering all things entertainment for over 8 years, but she has also written on a wide range of topics, like career...