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Dan's Review: "Five Feet Apart" cranks up the teen drama

Mar 14, 2019 06:26PM ● By Dan Metcalf

Cole Sprouse and Haley Lu Richardson in Five Feet Apart - © 2019 Lionsgate/CBS Films.

Five Feet Apart (Lionsgate/CBS Films)

Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, language, and suggestive material.

Starring Haley Lu Richardson, Cole Sprouse, Moises Arias, Kimberly Hebert Gregory, Parminder Nagra, Claire Forlani, Emily Baldoni, Cynthia Evans, Gary Weeks, Sophia Bernard, Cecilia Leal.

Written by Mikki Daughtry and Tobias Iaconis.

Directed by Justin Baldoni.

GRADE: B

REVIEW:

Teen drama is a new, somewhat lucrative film genre, previously relegated to the afterschool TV specials and the Hallmark Channel. There are two basic elements required to make one of these movies: two super-hot/cute people face some sort of life-threatening illness or injury together and find “true love.” A third, but not necessarily required variable is that one or both of the super-hot/cute people has to die. Most movies in this drama sub-genre are based on sappy teen novels, but Five Feet Apart, debuting this weekend is an original work of film, but it feels just like one of those teen “tear-jerker” novels.

Haley Lu Richardson stars as Stella, a teen girl suffering from cystic fibrosis, confined to a hospital bed. Since CF patients are not supposed to get any closer than 6 feet from each other due to an extreme risk of sharing a killer bacteria associated with the disorder, Stella’s circle of friends restricts any contact with other young patients on the floor. For those who are not aware, CF is a genetic disorder that causes patients to secrete too much mucus, mostly affecting a person’s ability to breathe. Life expectancy for CF patients has risen over the past 30 years to somewhere around 50 years. One of Stella’s closest friends is Poe (Moises Arias), who keeps her in good humor when things get rough. Stella also suffers from the loss of a close family member and the breakup if her parents’ marriage. When the sullen and risk-taking Will (Cole Sprouse) moves into the CF ward, Stella’s can’t deal with his disregard for following his CF health regimen (even though they are both obviously attracted to each other). This budding romance moves along slowly until the couple falls in love, which is complicated by the “6-foot rule.” Things get more complicated when tragedy strikes the CF ward, while Stella and Will confront their destiny.

Five Feet Apart is sweet and sappy and over-the-top with teen drama, which makes it somewhat enjoyable, even with its predictability. Yes, when teens face life-threatening situations and are raging with hormones, the drama level goes to “eleven,” which I suppose is the main appeal of such films. Haley Lu Richardson and Cole Sprouse (you may recognize him as “Cody” from the Disney Channel’s “Zack and Cody” series – Arias and Richardson are also alums of other teen TV shows) have some chemistry together, and they have a few lines of dialogue that might seem clever to young audiences, but the climactic end scenes in Five Feet Apart waver deep into some radical coincidences and unlikely scenarios that induce severe-eye-rolling among the postpubescent set.

Despite the opinions of jaded old dudes like me, I can see how Five Feet Apart will strike a chord for a lot of young folks with raging hormones and a penchant for drama. I didn’t get choked up, but then again, I replaced my teen drama issues with sports and a favorite chair years ago.     

One possible benefit of viewing Five Feet Apart for us old jaded types (and everyone else) is the opportunity to learn a little more about cystic fibrosis and its effects on kids and their families. I can’t vouch for the accuracy of the medical situations in the movie, but if we can all gain a little more awareness of this awful disorder, all the better.   


Five Feet Apart Trailer

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