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Five Feet Apart – Movie Review

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Five Feet Apart – Movie Review

Rating: C (Average)

Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy eOne Films

One of the nice things movies can do is give attention to topics that most people don’t think about on a daily basis. The disorder cystic fibrosis has rarely been depicted in media, so to see a motion picture made featuring young people with the illness is a good way to create awareness. Five Feet Apart certainly has its heart in the right place and good actors have been cast to play the main roles. However, the film also wants to be a sappy teenage romance and finds it hard to escape the cloying tendencies that can come from that subgenre.

Through main character Stella’s video blogs, Five Feet Apart is able to explain what cystic fibrosis is to us in a natural way and Haley Lu Richardson gives a solid performance. We understand her personality and what she has to deal with on a daily basis. The film properly establishes what patients with the disorder have to avoid doing, leading to the main conflict where she falls in love with Cole Sprouse’s Will. Five Feet Apart is at its best when it’s actually teaching what cystic fibrosis is and less so when it’s partaking in corny dialogue. What is happening to these young people is already sad enough and they immediately have the viewer’s sympathy, so the extra attempts to touch on the audience’s emotions feel a tad unnecessary.

In addition to the syrupy dialogue, there are a few too many slow-motion montages set to an indie song. By the fourth time one of these montages begins playing, it starts to become almost laughable, which is obviously not the filmmakers’ intention. What ends up being rather frustrating is when Five Feet Apart has the characters radically change at the flick of a switch. Stella’s evolution isn’t merely a case of character development. She becomes an entirely different person at the start of the third act. The characters also make some frustrating decisions that feel in contrast to what they have been taught since childhood. It merely adds a layer of falseness to the story.

The film repeatedly incorporates the “will they, won’t they” plot device, which gets tiring after a while. Despite the dialogue they’re asked to recite, Richardson and Sprouse are quite likeable together. Richardson properly conveys Stella’s caution and expertise. And while Sprouse is very much playing the typical rebel teen, he manages to show his multiple conflicting inner emotions. Meanwhile, Moises Arias and Kimberly Herbert Gregory fill the expected supporting roles as a fellow patient and head nurse, respectfully, but aren’t given much character beyond their archetypes. Director Justin Baldoni does manage to utilise his hospital locations in a way that doesn’t become dull to look at.

Five Feet Apart has its heart in the right place in wanting to bring attention to cystic fibrosis. Even having it be the central topic of a weepy teenage romance is a good way to get the message across to a young audience, who might be unfamiliar with the disorder and the unfortunate side effects. Haley Lu Richardson especially proves herself as an actress with a bright future ahead. However, we still have to sit through corny and contrived dialogue in a rather vanilla story. The baffling and frustrating story choices in the third act especially puts a damper on what the movie wants to convey. In the end, Five Feet Apart becomes an after-school special made for the big screen.

Stefan Ellison

Stefan Ellison