Cast: Haley Lu Richardson, Cole Sprouse, Moises Arias, Kimberly Hebert Gregory
Director: Justin Baldoni
I really don’t like this trend of taking horrible diseases and making movies out of them where beautiful people have this disease and fall in love with each other. While they do tend to bring awareness to diseases that weren’t originally in the spotlight before, they do so in a way that is typically disingenuous and tone-deaf. After last year’s Midnight Sun, naturally I had some reservations about Five Feet Apart. However, after taking all of this into consideration, Five Feet Apart actually ends up being a pleasant surprise. A flawed yet emotionally captivating story help elevate this movie and make it better than it probably had any right to be.
The film follows Stella Grant (Richardson), a teenager with cystic fibrosis that keeps her in the hospital with a very intense series of treatments and pills she must take to survive. When Will Newman (Sprouse), a new patient with cystic fibrosis shows up, the two eventually bond over their disease and the quality of life that they have remaining. This is the type of movie that is almost exclusively defined by the way the story is presented. For the first two acts, the film is honestly pretty generic. Stella and Will’s story follows the very standard format of, “girl meets boy, girl doesn’t like boy, girl and boy find common ground, girl falls in love with boy.” I don’t think anyone was expecting anything else from a movie like this, so while it’s not super original for most of the movie, this story keeps the movie afloat. That’s really the bare minimum in regards to this subject matter, so you have to give the movie credit for not shooting itself in the foot before it starts to really find itself. Where the film absolutely succeeds in the third act. Because we care about the well-being of the characters, when tragedies start to strike them it hits us that much harder. Basically, the point of this movie in the third act goes from, “let’s show a tragic love story,” to, “we’re going to make you cry.” If you are typically emotional or sensitive during movies like this, I promise you that you will end up bawling your eyes out. If this movie was a song, it would absolutely be Game’s, “Fuck Yo Feelings,” as this film makes it its mission to have you reduced to a shell of yourself by the end of it. This is made possible by the performance of Richardson in the lead role who gives us the full emotional scale that someone in her position would feel and shows us once again what a young star in the making looks like. The person I was most surprised by was Arias in the supporting role. Even though he is not in a substantial portion of the film, he makes the most of his time as a nurturing and thoughtful friend for Stella to rely on. The third act of this movie really is just a perfect storm of emotional tension and response which help make Five Feet Apart much better than it probably should’ve been.
Overall, Five Feet Apart is why you should go into all movies with as open a mind as you can. I was expecting a movie that would be either generic or borderline offensive, and it still has moments where it is incredibly generic, I wasn’t expecting to like it as much as I did. With all of the generic-looking coming-of-age romance movies coming out in the next few months, Five Feet Apart gives hope to them that when you hire talented actors and put in your best effort, you’ll get something that audiences remember for quite some time afterwards.
Overall Score: 6.5/10