five feet apart
DIRECTOR: Justin Baldoni (debut)
STARRING: haley lu richardson, cole sprouse, moises arias, and claire forlani
REVIEWER: emily carter
A pair of teenagers with life-threatening illnesses meet in a hospital and fall in love.
You may THINK you know what you're gonna feel during Five Feet Apart, but prepare to be sucker-punched right where it hurts. This heart-wrenching romantic drama is more than some teen movie, just you wait.
We meet the ever-optimistic Stella (Haley Lu Richardson), back in hospital again to monitor her cystic fibrosis - a lifelong disease that causes an overproduction of mucus in the body, leading to breathing difficulties and so much more. She may be a regular to "her" hospital room, but he is yet to meet Will (Cole Sprouse), a dark-humoured teen with an additional virus strain that means he and Stella must always stay six-feet apart. Where Stella has a gusto for life AND her medical regiment, Will is less impassioned. A frustrating friendship and budding romance ensues with Will becoming Stella's project and Stella becoming Will's muse - all without a single touch.
I feel loath to even say that Five Feet Apart features a lot of story pieces we have become familiar with in other teen films, because even though I must admit it does, it's a real gem. I winced slightly when I recognised a song from the Fault in Our Stars soundtrack (the soundtrack for Five Feet Apart is stellar by the way), purely because I don't want to see the two compared.
Five Feet Apart has the acting chops to stand alone. They're teens who are painfully aware of feeling like they're on borrowed time, and with very opposite world views, it's amazing to watch how one impacts the other. Richardson and Sprouse are magnetic, not cringey. While I feel like Sprouse is a little typecast as the furrowed-brow-pessimist, he does it well, and even reminded me of a young DiCaprio (only time will tell of course).
You can see the actors had to do their research and I hope they represent the cystic fibrosis community well. If at the very least you learn more about the disease itself, it's done its job.
We know teenagers like bending the rules, but when you have cystic fibrosis, all you know is the rules. And for a life-saving reason. Bring the tissues.