Five Feet Apart, a film about a sick boy and a sick girl who fall in love whilst both dealing with life-threatening illnesses is a story we’ve heard before – see Everything, Everything or The Fault in our Stars? In saying that, superhero movies are often some variation of another, so I guess that I ought to cut this teen flick some slack.
The film follows two teenagers living with cystic fibrosis who meet at a hospital and consequently fall in love. Stella Grant (Haley Lu Richardson) and Will Newman (Cole Sprouse) both suffer from the same genetic disorder, one that affects the lungs and that, over time, limits their ability to breathe. Should the two contract an infection from one another they could die, which is why they must always remain six feet apart. Throwing caution to the wind, the pair subtract one foot from their enforced separation, hence the title Five Feet Apart.
Directed by Justin Baldoni, the film explores the promise of life in the midst of love, loss and extraordinary strength. Though Stella and Will’s love story follows a clichéd path, the on-screen chemistry exhibited by the two is enough to make any gal or guy swoon.
The cast are cohesive in their roles and relationships, sensitively navigating the delicate topic of cystic fibrosis. Will, Stella and Stella’s best friend, Poe (Moises Arias), do not ask for pity in regards to their illness. Rather, they portray a group of kids who have accepted their lot and celebrate what they do have in life as opposed to what they don’t.
With the entirety of the film set in and around the hospital, Five Feet Apart somewhat glorifies what hospital living is like. The three teens have free reign of the place, easily bending the rules, an implication that didn’t quite ring true to me.
Though I found the script to be a reasonably predictable one, writers Mikki Daughtry and Tabias Iaconis outdid themselves with Stella’s monologues. The speeches she makes during her personal YouTube videos make for some inspirational content and were easily my favourite parts of the film. Subsequently, Haley Lu Richardson carries the film.
Five Feet Apart is the latest addition to the sick-lit-turn-movie genre, but it’s one that asks not for sympathy but rather, for faith. Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite hit the emotional sweet spot enough despite a strong leading lady.
Reviewed by Maya Dodd.