Romance Drama Revolves Around Love Between Hospitalized Teens
I WISH I COULD BE NEXT TO YOU: Stella (Haley Lu Richardson) and Will (Cole Sprouse), who both have cystic fibrosis, must stay a certain distance away from each other despite their growing attraction in “Five Feet Apart.” (Photo courtesy of CBS Films/Lionsgate)
By Kam William
Stella Grant (Haley Lu Richardson) is a typical 17-year-old in most regards. However, she is also suffering from cystic fibrosis (CF), a genetic disease which makes her very susceptible to a variety of breathing disorders.
Consequently, she spends much of her time in the hospital. She’s currently receiving treatment for bronchitis on a ward with several fellow CF patients, including her friend Poe (Moises Arias), although there is a strictly-enforced rule that they stay at least six feet apart at all times because they could easily infect each other.
That regulation is put to the test upon the arrival of newcomer Will Newman (Cole Sprouse), a CF victim with a bacterium which would prove fatal should Stella catch it from him. But the two kids fall in love at first sight, and find it hard to resist each other.
Luckily, nurse Barb (Kimberly Hebert Gregory) is there to monitor the movements of the young patients. She has been particularly vigilant to prevent any rendezvous on her watch, ever since an incident that led to a tragic ending.
Thus unfolds Five Feet Apart, a bittersweet romance drama marking the noteworthy feature film directorial debut of actor Justin Baldoni (Jane the Virgin). Baldoni deserves considerable credit for coaxing impressive performances out of Richardson and Sprouse, who manage to generate convincing chemistry in challenging roles where they can’t touch each other.
The movie’s sole flaw rests in its unnecessarily adding a melodramatic twist more appropriate for a soap opera at the picture’s climactic moment. It is a distracting rabbit-out-the-hat development that almost ruins an otherwise poignant love story.
Very Good (H H H). Rated PG-13 for profanity, mature themes, and suggestive material. Running time: 116 minutes. Production Companies: CBS Films/Wayfarer Entertainment. Distributors: CBS Films/Lionsgate