Cole Sprouse and Haley Lu Richardson fall in love while in hospital, even though their conditions mean they must stay a metre and a half apart, in this teen romance. Richardson stuns, writes Flicks critic Amanda Jane Robinson, but unfortunately the film does not.
Five Feet Apart is a film for the tumblr generation. It’s just a shame it’s seven or eight years late. With a plot suspiciously similar to an episode from Grey’s Anatomy’s seventh season, Five Feet Apart follows Stella (Haley Lu Richardson) and Will (Cole Sprouse), two young cystic fibrosis patients who meet and fall in love when they’re assigned to the same hospital ward. Forced to remain five feet apart in order to avoid infection, the couple explore the boundaries of trust and intimacy in a relationship where touch is off-limits.
Haley Lu Richardson (Support The Girls, Columbus) is the film’s strongest element. Her performance recalls early Rachel McAdams; one of those faces where everything registers. Cole Sprouse continues his angsty, brooding Riverdale thing—vulnerability disguised by nihilism—to charming effect. Moises Arias of Hannah Montana fame does well as Poe, another cystic fibrosis patient and Stella’s best friend since they were kids. At moments it does feel weird to watch these celebrities play at having this life-threatening disease, but both cast and crew are said to have worked with a cystic fibrosis foundation in an attempt to respect real life patients in their portrayals.
Based on the book of the same name, Five Feet Apart certainly feels very Young Adult Romance in a similar vein to The Fault In Our Stars, leaning heavily into cliche and melodrama. Directed by Jane The Virgin actor Justin Baldoni, this point is perhaps most aptly illustrated by the multiple montages set to indie folk band Daughter.
While understanding that this is a film made for teenagers, the film’s approach toward sex is frustratingly facile. That being said, there is some heavy flirting here, and a scene by the pool in particular feels destined to crystallise as a gifset, reblogged into eternity.
A stunning lead performance keeps the film a pleasant watch but unfortunately Five Feet Apart doesn’t really broach any new ground for the ‘sick teens fall in love’ genre.