In spite of being confined to living in a hospital, cystic fibrosis patient Stella Grant (Haley Lu Richardson) stays optimistic. She has a Youtube channel on which she documents her time in treatment, and keeps herself busy by making lists and checking off her daily tasks. One day, she meets a new CF patient named Will Newman (Cole Sprouse) whom she is frustrated at for not taking the drug trial he’s on seriously. Will is a joker and a rule breaker, and tries to encourage Stella to take more risks. Eventually, they fall in love, but a relationship seems impossible given CF patients have to stay at least 6 feet away from one another to prevent cross-infection.
If you’re thinking this sounds like a knock-off of ‘The Fault in Our Stars’, you’re right on the money. Heck even the font they’ve chosen for the title and credits is just like that of the romantic drama about two teenage cancer patients in love. Of course, this one has the added dimension that its two young lovers could actually kill one another, and that does add a dimension of tragedy even as you try to stay steely-hearted watching the film.
In the stars of ‘Five Feet Apart’, you have ‘Riverdale-slash-former-Zach-or-was-it-Cody’ Cole Sprouse, and Haley Ru Richardson, who previously impressed audiences in ‘Split’, ‘Edge of Seventeen’ and ‘Columbus’. Another notable performance can be found in Moises Arias as Stella’s best mate, Poe. Directing the film, interestingly enough, is Justin Baldoni aka ‘Jane the Virgin’s Rafael.
It’s not a bad line-up behind and in front of the camera, and it’s not a bad film either. Certain parts are annoying conventional, such as its ‘meet cute’ (“look at how feisty and different to each other they are – will they ever get along?”) and gay best friend. Its physical and emotional distance symbolism is a bit on the nose, and there are more than a handful of shots where you simply don’t believe they are five to six feet apart, which is grating because that distance is so pivotal to the relationship. There are parts that are very Hallmark movie and schmaltzy, including a montage in which the three leads are fighting, set to sad piano music, depressed facial expressions and walking away in slow motion. And yet you do end up being swept along with the emotions in it because the acting is so note-perfect.
Its first act where the relationship is built up to is probably more interesting than when they’re actually dating. The end is actually infuriating because Stella does something that is so effin stupid that you almost wish she did die (we’re talking about a fictional character here, so chill) so she’d learn her lesson. Then it’s left to Sprouse to deliver the sweetest, most heart-breaking finale that gets to you hard as you try to resist. In conclusion, damn millennials and their movies about dying teens making me feel things.