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Review: ‘Five Feet Apart’ is a Heartbreaking but Inspirational Look at Life, Death and Love

March 15, 2019Ferdosa Abdi

Five Feet Apart is a heartwarming tale of two individuals who are up against insurmountable odds, falling in love and learning valuable lessons about living. Written by Mikki Daughtry and Tobias Iaconis, this romantic drama has also been developed into a YA bestseller by Rachael Lippincott and marks the feature debut from Jane the Virgin's Justin Baldoni.

The film tells the story of Stella Grant (Haley Lu Richardson), a young woman with cystic fibrosis. We follow her over the course of a month where her usual health regimen is interrupted by the appearance of Will Newman (Cole Sprouse), a young CFer with a dangerous bacteria. Will is neglectful of his treatments and is seemingly content with dying from the disease, whereas Stella is obsessive about her treatments, even documenting her experiences on her YouTube channel.

Over the course of the movie, however, we begin to see the truth behind Stella's obsessive behavior, and Will begins to take his treatments seriously when he sees what he could be missing if he doesn't. Plot-wise, there are very little surprises, but that doesn't mean that the film is not effective in laying out this love story. On the contrary, Daughtry and Iaconis' script moves well, and is quippy, funny, heartwarming and informative, while Baldoni's direction is delicate, as he makes the hospital setting feel romantic and homey. Coupled with the terrific performances, they turn what could have been a formulaic tale into a touching look at how serious illnesses affects one's relationship with life and death.

Richardson is absolutely delightful, exuding so much light and charisma. Her talent is never in question, but the movie is a testament to how she powerful she is as an actress. Sprouse, meanwhile, comes off as a little too close to his Jughead persona on Riverdale, but he is still incredibly effective as the cool guy character that has become all the rage in YA stories. Last but not least, Moises Arias, who comes in like a wrecking ball and steals the show, deserves a special shout-out. There is very little of him in the film, but when he does appear he lights up the screen. Richardson and Sprouse will most certainly be propelled to leading actor status based on their performances, but it would be a shame if Arias isn't offered the same consideration. (And yes, Rico from Hannah Montana has finally met Cody from The Suite Life of Zack and Cody.)

As for the medical aspects of the movie, it would be difficult for someone who does not have cystic fibrosis to determine if the film is medically accurate or a fictitious telling of CFers' experiences. However, the movie does highlight the invaluable nature of the nurses and doctors who work tirelessly to better the lives of their patients, though. And it also doubles down on showing that people with serious illnesses are actual human beings, and can be characterized as more than just being sick.

All in all, Five Feet Apart is sweet, heartbreaking and inspirational, with the dynamic pairing of Richardson and Sprouse bolstered by an excellent supporting cast. Head over to the nearest movie theatre armed with a box of tissues and a blanket. You most certainly will have a good time.

Five Feet Apart releases March 15th, 2019 from eOne Films. The film has an MPAA rating of PG-13 for thematic elements, language and suggestive material. Its runtime is 1 hr. 56 min.

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