Based on the novel of the same name Five Feet Apart is a romance film directed by Justin Baldoni. It follows the story of Stella (Haley Lu Richardson) and Will (Cole Sprouse), two very sick teenagers who have to stand at least five feet apart or risk contamination.
If it feels like you’ve seen this movie before, I don’t blame you, Five Feet Apart resembles so many of the generic fatally sick teens romance films of the past two decades that they’ve essentially become a sub-genre in their own right.
The first thought I have regarding Five Feet Apart is that it is nearly a decent film, I thought I’d get that out the way. To understand why Five Feet Apart feels so distant, it’s important to understand that film that relies so heavily on its large emotional moments as its “fuel”, that without them, there’s nothing of substance to be enjoyed here. This film uses a mixture of formulaic storytelling techniques, particularly ‘setups and call-backs’ to manipulate emotion. Generally they come in the form of flashbacks. For example, two characters will have a heartfelt moment (this is the setup) and then toward the end of the film where the story reaches its ‘do or die’ moment, we get a flashback (this is the call-back). We can get half a dozen of these in the span of a few seconds. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.
Five Feet Apart relies on the concept of distance to keep things interesting, the idea that these characters must stay five feet away from one another is the selling point for the story, one could even call it a gimmick. Unfortunately Five Feet Apart doesn’t quite flesh out this sense of distance as much as its marketing lets on. You don’t really feel the sense of gravitas behind their distance, only short moments to remind you that it exists as an obstacle in their way, not a fundamental issue that divides and ruins their relationship.
Beyond the shaky story, Haley Lu Richardson truly carries the weight of this films emotional brunt. She goes just that bit further into her characters emotional range by digging deeper and fleshing out the mindset of someone who may be going through illness. Unfortunately Cole Sprouse shows little to no indication that he’s going through hard times with his character, he’s quite rusty when it comes to acting but he pulls through in the end with an admirable final moment.
Five Feet Apart is not a film that excels in any particular area, especially visually. You get some well shot lighting despite the setting being that of a hospital, beyond that unfortunately the camera-work is as about as moderate as the story itself. The film didn’t feel drawn out and it kept enough of my attention to stay engaged.
Five Feet Apart provides its target demographic with an adequately structured love story. If you’re not a fan of emotional young-love stories then it may be best to keep more than five feet from this film, as some of the cheesy dialogue may leave you with cramps, aches, and dizziness. However, the lead performance is admirable, and if you’re in the mood for something to tug some heart strings then this may be for you. Five Feet Apart remains one short step ahead of the standard teen romance film; primarily due to Haley Lu Richardsons cohesive performance.