Five Feet Apart, rated PG-13
Five Feet Apart is an emotional film about two teens with cystic fibrosis who fall in love. The film has some content issues, but also has many positive elements. The film is directed by Justin Baldoni (My Last Days) based on the young adult novel written by Rachael Lippincott, Mikki Daughtry and Tobias Iaconis, the latter two of which also wrote the film’s screenplay.
Stella, played by Haley Lu Richardson (Columbus) was born with cystic fibrosis (CF). As the film begins, she is checking into St. Grace Regional Hospital to deal with an infection, and not able to go on vacation with her friends. At St. Grace she is treated well by the compassionate nurse Barb, played by Kimberly Hebert Gregory, who is skilled in treating Stella and the other CF patients on the floor, including Stella’s best friend Poe, played by Moises Arias. Stella is very well-organized, sticking to her medical routines and exercise. She maintains a “To Do” list, and loves crossing items off of it. One of the items on her list is to study about the afterlife. She has her own YouTube channel, through which she shares her journey with others. Still, she tries to maintain a positive attitude as she waits for a lung transplant, which will buy her another five years.
Will, played by Cole Sprouse (Riverdale), is another teenage CF patient in the hospital. He is entering an experimental drug program, but even if it is successful, he is not a candidate for a lung transplant. As a result, he has lost hope and is not faithful in following his treatment program. Stella encourages him to stick with his treatment. Will begins to fall for Stella, and she agrees to spend time with him, and to let him draw her as he requests, if he will follow a prescribed routine that she organizes for him.
As CF patients are vulnerable to infection, Will and Stella are not allowed to touch. In addition, they must stay at a distance of six feet apart. One of the ways they stay in touch is by Face Timing with each other while in their rooms doing their treatments. As their relationship grows, Stella decides that CF has taken enough from she and Will. As a result, she takes one foot back, and uses a five-foot pool cue to measure the distance that she and Will have to stay apart. The two fall in love, knowing that the odds are against their relationship. How will things turn out? Will Stella get a lung transplant? Will the experimental treatment help Will?
The acting performances from the four leading characters are all solid and realistic. Themes in the film include risk, love, death and dying, responsibility, caring for others, hope, human touch and forgiveness. Content concerns include some adult language, including the abuse of God’s name, and some language of a sexual nature. Poe is a homosexual, who talks about his multiple sexual partners and his love for his boyfriend. It seems that relationships with parents are not close and loving. Though one of the items on Stella’s “To Do” list is the afterlife, there is no mention of God. We only see a Hari Krishna symbol on Stella’s hospital room wall and see her meditating.
Five Feet Apart is an emotional film that has some content issues but also many positive elements. With so many people in the audience under the age of 25, it was refreshing to see love, friendship and intimacy being portrayed without a sexual relationship. To see Will delight in Stella because of who she is and not her appearance was great.
So… for those of you who have read the book, was the book better than the film?