I did not see this movie twice in the span of 12 hours in vain! As always, I’m a sucker for a good romantic drama, and Five Feet Apart definitely is that. A fine mix of A Walk to Remember, Me Before You, and The Fault in Our Stars with an added tinge of awareness activism. This film, directed by Jane The Virgin’s Justin Baldoni, stars Haley Lu Richardson as Stella and Cole Sprouse as Will, two teenagers in love but pulled apart from the restrictions of their cystic fibrosis. The film is very intentional in making sure we as an audience are educated on the particular complications that come with living with cystic fibrosis, with the late Youtuber and CF patient Claire Wineland acting as a consultant. And packaged as a tragic love story, Five Feet Apart does a particularly good job of weighing down our couple’s predicament to an even more personal and empathetic level. To say I did not tear up would be a lie.
Though I did not fully sob in this movie like I wanted to, the film has oddly stuck with me and I simply can’t stop thinking about it. Stella, just like Claire, is a Youtuber who documents her experience dealing with CF in the most endearing of ways and she is met with her match in Will, who arrives to her same hospital with a rare bacterial infection (B. cepacia) for a drug trial, and who has mentally succumb to the dark realities of his situation. Richardson and Sprouse have a great onscreen chemistry that works so well in this film, and both deliver stellar performances that really carry the film, despite some of its prominent writing flaws. Stella and Will are nice complements of each other and there’s such a distinct sexual tension between them that is deeply palpable because of the fact that they can’t touch each other (or be within six feet of each other). There is a scene in which they’re sitting near a pool together that took my breath away and solidified this film’s place in my Tender Love Story canon (see also: To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before).
Be warned though, Five Feet Apart may seem like just one of the many teen romantic dramas coming out in recent years (see also: Everything, Everything and The Sun Is Also A Star), but this movie was truly an emotional rollercoaster - as in, high-as-fuck highs and mega lows - especially in its third act. People in my theater were having audible reactions and it’s really almost like a thriller in many ways. That emotional payoff is one of the reasons I’m willing to overlook some of the aforementioned writing flaws - which include a shaky character foundation for Stella and a certain death that seems too out-of-nowhere-and-for-no-reason among others. Like I said, Haley and Cole’s chemistry does a lot of things for me. Also love that these two went to a strip club together.
For all the work our main couple does in this film, another standout character for me was Stella’s best friend, Poe, portrayed surprisingly by Hannah Montana’s own Moises Arias. It’s like a Disney Channel reunion! Speaking of which, I feel obligated to note that in my first viewing of this movie, the only reason I didn’t immediately get whisked away was because I was so distracted by Cole Sprouse, and not in the way you might imagine. Maybe it was because I had never seen Riverdale, aside from this one weird scene, and so I hadn’t really seen Cole Sprouse in action post-Suite Life. But seeing him turn his charm on for Stella was so… odd at first? Truly the only thing that came to my mind every time he came onscreen was this scene from The Suite Life of Zack and Cody in which he tells Mr. Moseby to cherish a woman. But you know what, that’s exactly what his character does in Five Feet Apart - Will cherishes Stella so much! Absolutely adorable.