Arts & Reviews

The Trendy Teen Tearjerker: “Five Feet Apart” Movie Review

By: Uma Attreya

After the release of “The Fault in Our Stars” in 2014, “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” in 2015, and other such movies, the idea that awareness can be brought to illnesses, like cancer,  through literature and movies has been put forth. Though the aforementioned films have humorous and dramatic components, they do serve a purpose of telling a story about teenagers who do not lead a normal and healthy life due to a life altering illness. The recently released film “Five Feet Apart”  falls under this newer genre of movies and is overall classified as a romantic drama. It is directed by Justin Baldoni,

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known for his role as Rafael in the popular TV show “Jane the Virgin.” It stars Cole Sprouse, also seen as Jughead in the show “Riverdale” and Haley Lu Richardson, known for her role as Krista in the movie the “Edge of Seventeen.” Sprouse and Richardson play the roles of two teenagers who have cystic fibrosis. Cystic fibrosis, CF, is a disease that mainly affects the lungs due to the extreme buildup of mucus. Due to the fear of cross infection, patients with CF are advised to stay six feet apart from each other. Sprouse and Richardson’s characters fall in love in spite of these regulations, and they enforce the messages of living life to the fullest and knowing that love is a powerful feeling that doesn’t require physical touch.

The movie opens with Stella Grant, Richardson’s character, and it lets viewers into her character. Stella has control issues, seen in the way she repeatedly organizes her pill containers, and is extremely cautious. She does all the treatment related things required of her, and she documents her journey on Youtube, trying to bring awareness to what she and many other CF patients go through. She is staying at the hospital for an extended check up. She is a lively teenager, despite her circumstances. Stella meets Will Newman, Sprouse’s character, in the hospital. He is at the hospital for a drug trial which is trying to eliminate the bacterial infection, B.Cepacia, in his lungs. Unlike Stella, he is a generally pessimistic character and is all for taking risks. Stella freaks out when she discovers that Will has not been following his regimen, which is his treatment schedule including when to take his pills and which ones to take, because, with her control issues, she needs to know that everything around her is in

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order. Will, an artist, strikes a deal with Stella: he will follow his regimen if she lets him draw her. And so it began. The two teens communicated via FaceTime due to the 6 feet apart rule, and they slowly fall in love and go on dates. At one point, Stella is fed up with how her life has been revolving around the hospital and her health, with strict rules like remain in 6 feet away from other CF patients. Though cross infection in general is risky, with Will it is even more risky since catching his bacterial infection would be deadly. However, Stella insists that staying five feet apart, taking a foot for themselves, is understandable. She uses a pool stick, measuring five feet, and she and WIll hold opposite ends for their date. Hence, the name “Five Feet Apart”. With a portrayal of two seemingly average teens’ daily lives in the hospital, the movie contains plenty of tear jerking and genuine moments.

Overall, the film was well put together. With an indie soundtrack playing in the background of important and dramatic moments; the movie was continuous, flowing from one scene to another seamlessly. The intense romance scenes between Stella and Will managed to humanize CF and make it more real instead of this foreign and rare disease some people just happen to get.  Sprouse and Richardson were incredible in bringing the script to life and conveying emotions through their acting that were not explicitly said in their dialogues. Without the physical aspect of romance, the two leads put their best feet forward to bring the characters to life and capture the audience’s attention with their love story.

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However, despite their efforts, the climax was totally off from the rest of the film’s tone. It was a casual love story until the ending. Everything happened so quickly by the end, with audience members seeing plot twist after plot twist after sitting for a rather laid back cliche love story for the majority of the film until then. It was a lot to process. Aside from the circumstance of two teens falling in love despite their situations and no touching, the characters themselves are cliche. Stella is a control freak and rule follower, while Will is a brooding rebel. Though Richardson and Sprouse to engage the audience and make them care about their characters, the whole dramatic aspect of the movie, which is everything after the first 1 hour and 10 minutes of a 2 hour movie, can kind of mute any emotional response the audience may have; it just kept piling up. The audience could have been entranced without all the additional extravagance; the film was focused more on that aspect than anything else. The actors convincingly played their characters so audience members can overlook any missteps drama or plot wise. Overall, this film is a melodramatic one with a tear-jerking ending, and it enforces a classic romantic idea: love is sacrifice.
Further, any excess drama or cliches aside, I do think this film is worth watching. This movie seems to be more directed towards teenagers but it does serve a purpose in educating the general audience. With Stella sharing her experiences to her audience on Youtube, and thus the people watching the movie become more aware about cystic fibrosis. As it is disease which over 70,000 people in the world age, is brought to the spotlight in this film. This sick teen genre, of literature and movies, is becoming

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increasingly popular for people who want a good cry, but the main purpose to to bring awareness to this disease that still doesn’t have a cure. The majority of the movie is focused on the romance story, but the characters’ background stories, tiny details slipped in when they aren’t in the midst of a date, provide insight on how life with CF must be like. This isn’t an infomercial for CF, but instead a compelling story that educates people generally about CF.  Now a book based of the screenplay for this film as been released, and the movie and book are definitely worth checking out.

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