Words Joelle Reid
Five Feet Apart, as much as I wanted to love it, didn’t tug at the heartstrings like its teen-romance predecessors- the likes of The Fault in our Stars, To the Bone, and Me, Earl and the Dying Girl. I grew up in the target audience that thrived off these movies, but this one didn’t satisfy my itch for good looking, young, dying patients quite like the others. Those movies still felt part of their genre, whereas Five Feet Apart feels more of a play on the tropes that grew from movies with sick or terminal people. The clichés were hard to watch, and the plotline felt rushed. But I must give note to Haley Lu Richardson who played a strong lead role.
The movie revolves around her 17 year-old character, Stella, who suffers from cystic fibrosis and spends many-a-time in hospital. Her very precise and routine lifestyle is shook by the moody, charming boy Will, played by none other than teen heartthrob Cole Sprouse. The Riverdale star switched up his usual acting roles of moody-boy, to moody-boy with cystic fibrosis in what was a frustrating character to watch. It may be a flaw in the writing, because I found Will saying cheesy lines to his love interest which had me cringing in my chair (“God you’re beautiful… I wish I could touch you” and saying “I love you” without a strong chemistry to Stella are some of my personal favourite cringes from the film).
The premise lies around the idea that they must remain six feet apart at all times due to restriction of bacterial contact between CF patients. But of course, their romantic energy pushes boundaries and they stand a whopping five feet apart. From a viewer’s perspective it felt like this trope was what the plotline originated around but it didn’t feel like it had been elaborated on enough. I didn’t walk away feeling as if I learnt anything particularly profound which is often expected of a movie that revolves around life or death. Nor did I feel entertained as if I had watched a cute romance that had some type of resolve- when I left, I felt very up in the air.
One thing that did help ease my judgemental eye about the movie is that Stella’s struggle with cystic fibrosis isn’t highly glamorized, and I felt as though the amount of gore and detail used to show the condition was very appropriate. It is already very strange that putting dying young people together as lead characters is leading a few plotlines in the film industry at the moment, but if they were to ignore the very essence of that type of story I would’ve been disappointed.