Director: Justin Baldoni
Starring: Haley Lu Richardson, Cole Sprouse, Moisés Arias, Kimberly Hébert Gregory
I’m 5’ 6”, so just lay me down and there’s your line.
Justin Baldoni’s Five Feet Apart is a new addition to the young adult-romantic drama canon and stars the marvellous Haley Lu Richardson and Cole Sprouse as two teens who fall for each other – except both are patients with cystic fibrosis who require lung transplants and, because of this, are prohibited from being within six feet of each other due to the high risk of cross-infection. I had no idea about this rule, I’m happy to admit, however, it’s an official guideline from the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation so before the movie had even begun, it had raised that level of awareness for myself.
Both are patients whose condition has helped to shape who they are. Richardson’s Stella Grant uses social vlogging to bring awareness to her condition and also to show that she is just like the rest of us. She lives by the rules and has insane OCD, something her best friend and CF sufferer, Poe (Arias), knows all too well. Sprouse’s Will Newman, on the other hand, is a more rebellious type. He has floppy hair and a disregard for the rules which should prevent him from having any chance with someone like Stella, but this is the movies. The two spend more time together in order to understand the others personalities and the inevitable attraction blossoms, however, they are restricted by the six-foot rule which becomes more and more problematic the closer they become. I’ll get the obvious out of the way immediately, the comparisons to The Fault in Our Stars are there for all to see and Five Feet Apart isn’t exactly a million miles away from having the same storyline. On that note, there’s nothing here you haven’t seen before or won’t see coming from a mile away – it’s pretty formulaic and conventional. What helps make it better than average are the two leads performances. Both are imbued with strength and vulnerability, plus a restraint (at times) that allows for a more genuine portrayal of CF patients. Richardson and Sprouse share great chemistry and it’s them that really helps the movie and keep it afloat.
Without them, there’s not a lot that’s spectacular about Five Feet Apart. It’s not a bad movie, it’s just not great either. Mikki Daughtry and Tobias Iaconis’ screenplay spends time letting us get to know both characters, and the supporting cast also, which was required and helps pave the way for the inevitability of the final act events. It’s there, really, that the movie allows itself to fall into slightly melodramatic (and plot convenience) territory but it never feels manipulative. That M word can make or break movies similar to this but Five Feet Apart manages to just fall on the right side of the line. There’s no denying the sadness and power of those final moments, though. Got to ask, where were the parents during all of this?
What Five Feet Apart does well is let its two leads show off their considerable talents and also raise awareness to a condition oft-overlooked. It may not be as successful (or good) as The Fault in Our Stars, but Five Feet Apart still delivers a decent movie through all of the convention and its formulaic narrative.
April 6th 2019