[MOVIE REVIEW] Five Feet Apart conforms to stereotypes, doesn’t glorify disease

Five Feet Apart follows the story of Stella (Haley Lu Richardson) and Will (Cole Sprouse), two 17 year olds with cystic fibrosis. Although they are completely different, Stella is a rule following neat freak, and Will is a rebellious artist, they are immediately drawn to each other.  Due to the nature of cystic fibrosis, however, they must stay 6 feet away from each other at all times in order to avoid fatal cross-contamination. As the two become closer, Stella’s gay best friend, Poe (Moises Arias), helps them sneak around the hospital in an effort to hide their forbidden relationship from Stella’s protective nurse, Barb (Kimberly Hebert Gregory).

The reason the film is called Five Feet Apart, even though the distance that patients with cystic fibrosis are actually supposed to keep six feet apart, is eventually shown in the movie.  However, it doesn’t make very much sense, and adds almost nothing to the plot.

The acting in this movie isn’t bad as far as romance movies go. Haley Lu Richardson is a believable Stella, and commits to her role. In order to effectively play Stella, who has had cystic fibrosis since birth, Richardson obviously did research, and it shows.  Cole Sprouse’s acting is a little more debatable. Will seems to be a mixture of Sprouse’s real-life personality and Jughead, Sprouse’s character in the CW show Riverdale. This doesn’t show exceptional acting skills on his part as Sprouse seems to be playing himself throughout the movie.  

The reason the film is called Five Feet Apart, even though the distance that patients with cystic fibrosis are actually supposed to keep six feet apart, is eventually shown in the movie. ”

The two lead characters themselves embody annoying stereotypes in different ways.  Stella is a stereotypical rule-follower character; she makes lists of everything she does, follows everything her nurses tell her exactly, and she even has diagnosed OCD.  This portrayal of her OCD actually becomes problematic when she uses it as an excuse to control Will’s treatment regimen. Will is a stereotypical rebellious teenage boy; he is an artist, very disorganized, and never listens to his nurses.  

Poe, Stella’s best friend, is arguably the best character in Five Feet Apart.  He is emotionally intelligent, and sensitive, but also hilarious.  Poe is also an good example of queer representation; his queerness isn’t stereotypical, and his personality and role as a character is much deeper than just his sexuality.

Most of the bad aspects of Five Feet Apart are a result of the mediocre and messy writing.  The plot is very formulaic, with awkward dialogue and the movie depends on unnecessary drama to drive the plot forward. The timeline of the movie is confusing and the backstory ratio is very uneven, with borderline oversharing on Stella’s part, and a complete lack of backstory for Will. The writers of Five Feet Apart are Mikki Daughtry and Tobias Iaconis, both very new to screenwriting, their only other major movie, The Curse of La Llorona, coming out about a month after Five Feet Apart.

A big mission of this movie was to spread awareness and information about cystic fibrosis, of which Five Feet Apart actually did a terrific job of. The disease isn’t romanized, and specific information about cystic fibrosis is offered in sneaky ways, such as offhand comments about surgery and treatment, so that the movie doesn’t come off as a giant informational video.

All in all, this movie isn’t a particularly memorable. But if you’re in the mood to watch a cheesy teenage romance, or just want to laugh at Cole Sprouse angrily fake-drawing, Five Feet Apart could be a good waste of your time. Just wait until it’s out of theaters, because it definitely isn’t worth your money.