Five Feet Apart

 

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Rising star Haley Lu Richardson brings heart and purpose to a formulaic but effective tearjerker that highlights the plight of cystic fibrosis.

   

Five Feet Apart

One foot is not so grave: Haley Lu Richardson and Cole Sprouse 

 

Half of all sufferers of cystic fibrosis, we are told, die before the age of 31. But even when they are alive, they’re constantly coughing up mucus, are prone to coughing fits and have difficulty breathing.

 

The closing line pretty much sums up the tenor of the film: “Life’s too short to waste a second.” Stella Grant has quite a formidable bucket list, but she’s already an over-achiever. She’s read the entire works of Shakespeare, learned to play the piano and can speak French. But there’s so much that she can’t do as she’s confined to a hospital room, has tubes stuck up her nose and is tied to a draconian medical regimen. Cystic fibrosis can really limit a person’s lifestyle. At the Saint Grace Hospital there are a number of CF-ers – pronounced ‘see-effers’ – but due to the dangers of cross-infection, they are not allowed to be closer to each other than six feet. Stella is a rebel, though, and she sets out to reduce that distance by twelve inches…

 

A weepie in the tradition of The Fault in Our Stars (2014), Justin Baldoni's Five Feet Apart is illuminated by the presence of Haley Lu Richardson as Stella. Having already displayed her acting chops in Split (2016) and Kogonada's beguiling and exquisite Columbus (2016), the actress exudes a focus and sunny disposition that is one good reason for seeing Five Feet Apart. The film is also something of an education, dramatizing the minutia of a genetic disorder that most people have only a cursory knowledge of. And with love stories becoming an endangered species at the multiplex, it’s refreshing to encounter one with something significant (and unusual) to say. Here, physical intimacy is not an option, so the chemistry between Stella and the wry, sardonic Will Newman (Cole Sprouse) is all the more affecting.

 

And while the film falls into formula in its later stages, its savvy harnessing of social media and an understanding of modern mores elevates it above the status of a well-meaning infomercial. No doubt cynics will pigeonhole it as another romantic drama venerating the attraction of the moribund, but its message of seizing the most out of life is to be lauded. When Will notes that “we’re breathing borrowed air,” he could be talking for the whole human race.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Cast: Haley Lu Richardson, Cole Sprouse, Moises Arias, Kimberly Hebert Gregory, Emily Baldoni, Parminder Nagra, Claire Forlani, Emily Baldoni, Gary Weeks, Cynthia Evans.

 

Dir Justin Baldoni, Pro Cathy Schulman and Justin Baldoni, Screenplay Mikki Daughtry and Tobias Iaconis, Ph Frank G. DeMarco, Pro Des Tony Fanning, Ed Angela M. Catanzaro, Music Brian Tyler and Breton Vivian, Costumes Rachel Sage Kunin.

 

CBS Films/Welle Entertainment/Wayfarer Entertainment-Vertigo Releasing.

116 mins. USA. 2019. Rel: 22 March 2019. Cert. 12A.