Haley Lu Richardson and Cole Sprouse in FIVE FEET APART.

“Five Feet Apart”: A fresh take on romance

The new Hollywood teen romance film, “Five Feet Apart,” artfully depicts love between two patients with cystic fibrosis (CF) while maintaining a “Romeo and Juliet” cliche. Although it has an idealistic feel of a romance movie between two seemingly doomed lovers, multiple scenes of the film including the ending left me feeling warm, yet conscious of the reality of the dilemma of such individuals.   

“Five Feet Apart” was inspired by director Justin Baldoni’s documentary about a CF patient named Claire Wineland. Wineland video-logged her life with CF and consulted the making of the film. Although the film is not based on Wineland’s life, it certainly captures the life-altering effects of CF.

The story begins with two CF patients, Will Newman (played by Cole Sprouse) and Stella Grant (played by Haley Lu Richardson) who meet at a hospital. Will is undergoing an experimental drug trial to get rid of his bacterial lung infection while Stella is awaiting a lung transplant. CF patients are strictly advised to keep at least six feet apart from one another to prevent cross-infections in their already compromised immune systems. Despite her initial adherence to the six feet rule, Stella’s attraction toward Will grows so strong that the two become more intimate.

Such love between two individuals who cannot be with each other forced me to question how much I would be willing to sacrifice and risk for a relationship. When Stella, deeply saddened by the loss of her friend, decided to live life as she wanted by dating Will and going as far as to grab his hand, I felt a feeling of triumphant excitement because the two were pushing their relationship to the next level. This feeling was accentuated by the fact that Sprouse and Richardson were able to show teenagers’ shy, but daring mentality in relationships. However, fear of the consequences of their intimacy reminded me of the reality of living with a medical condition.

That brings me onto my next point. I’m the type of person who easily gets caught up with and accepting of the plot of most romances. Yet, Baldoni always manages to remind me of how pervasive the threat of death is throughout the film. For example, Stella nearly died after dropping into the icy pond, and Will’s decision to perform mouth-to-mouth CPR on her further accentuated my nervousness.

Furthermore, the ambiguity of whether Will survives left me mentally begging for some sort of a solid conclusion from Baldoni. As sweet as their story seems, I left the theater feeling as if I have simply watched another romance film. Except this one was more reality-based.

By Phillip Leung, Staff writer
Photo courtesy of Variety.com



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