“Five Feet Apart” is your typical YA drama with surprisingly good acting and welcome representation for the cystic fibrosis community, but it ultimately falls short of what it aims to achieve as it becomes entangled in its own generic teenage romance melodrama.
The premise is simple yet refreshingly original. The two lovers are separated indefinitely by at least six feet of physical space lest they get each other sick and succumb to their respective cystic fibrosis. The concept promises a fresh take on the classic and predictable teen love story through the physical limitations that separate the pair. Even something as taken for granted as hand-holding could be deadly for the two young cystic fibrosis patients.
Stella, played by Haley Lu Richardson, is back in the hospital for treatment for her cystic fibrosis, an incurable disease that makes her extremely vulnerable to the threat of a respiratory infection. The ward she is in is made up exclusively of cystic fibrosis patients.
The new boy in the ward, Will, played by Cole Sprouse, is devastatingly handsome in Stella’s eyes. His rebellious behaviors, such as refusing to take his medications, neglecting his treatments and even sitting on the roof alone late at night, only make Stella fall harder.
Will harps on the fact that they are dying anyway and insists that nothing can go any more wrong than it already has. He is portrayed as the brooding artist type. Stella, in contrast, is the loveable, take-charge girl. They are perfectly compatible in all ways except physical.
It is an emotional story, and this much is obvious. The problem is that the plot begins to rely primarily on the emotional aspect as it becomes all-consuming. There is no denying that the film does romance well, but it leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to what makes up an actually good film.
“Five Feet Apart” is self-aware in this respect. It aims to tug at the heartstrings of young, impressionable girls with its idealistically romantic and beautiful yet tragic love story. The film also targets a wider audience, however. It captivates and then devastates at regular intervals all set to the tunes of doleful but beautiful love songs.
It is undeniable that the film asks important real-world questions. How can two people fall in love and maintain a relationship with the risks that come with their medical conditions making it dangerous and potentially deadly for them to even so much as touch?
Despite the welcome representation, the cystic fibrosis community has been divided about the way they are being portrayed since the first trailer was released. Some cystic fibrosis patients feel as if the representation is not accurate and that their condition is being exploited for monetary gain. Still others enjoyed the film thoroughly and welcome the resulting awareness. In short, the film is good if you are looking for a predictably doomed love story, but when it comes to the title of a great film, “Five Feet Apart” falls just a few feet short.
photo courtesy IMDb