Movies

Five Feet Apart is the latest and weakest in sick-lit cinema

What if you were a disease movie with only two hours to live? Would you try to cram as much as possible into that dwindling sphere of existence? A love story, quirky supporting characters, a saintly nurse, brushes with death, and track after track of soft indie guitar-ful music?

Welcome to One Point Five Two Four Metres Apart, which does all this and yet, somehow, less. Haley Lu Richardson (The Edge of Seventeen) and Cole Sprouse (TV’s Riverdale) star as Stella and Will, two teenagers who meet in a city hospital. She is irrepressibly plucky and charmingly OCD; he is brooding and rakish and looks like he would smoke if he could. Both have the same genetic condition; locks of hair that refuse to do anything except fall sexily across their faces.

They also both suffer from Cystic Fibrosis, which the movie comes dangerously close to fetishizing, suggesting it provides the perfect opportunity to loll, mope, yearn and ponder, like 18th-century romantics with oxygen tanks. The disorder also demands they stay 1.8288 metres apart – OK, six feet – lest they cross-infect one another. Despite their growing affection, they are literally not good for each other.

Five Feet Apart – they steal back one foot, you see – joins a growing list of recent sick-lit movies, including The Fault in Our Stars (thyroid cancer), Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (leukemia), Me Before You (assisted suicide, maybe), Everything, Everything (immunodeficiency), If I Stay (coma, out-of-body experience) and The Space Between Us (um, born-on-Mars syndrome, I guess).

Most of these are based on existing novels. Five Feet Apart is by first-time screenwriters Mikki Daughtry and Tobias Iaconis, and the lack of experience shows. When Will brings up Stella’s deceased sister, I could almost picture the screenplay page with its parenthetical note: “Will can see he’s hit a nerve.”

Direction is by Justin Baldoni, an actor on TV’s Jane the Virgin, although his at-death’s-door documentary series My Last Days probably helped him get the chair for this film. Certainly he’s sympathetic to all his characters, including Stella’s gay best friend (Moises Arias) and the infinitely wise Nurse Barb (Kimberly Hebert Gregory). Whatever they’re paying her – Nurse Barb, but also Gregory – it’s not enough.

And yet it’s hard to fully connect with characters. Perhaps it’s how the hospital is portrayed as a kind of summer camp, where patients can scurry around after lights-out getting up to G-rated trouble. Maybe it’s the way the plot wafts along from one annoyingly similar heartfelt tune to another. Or it could be that after Stella pulls out a pool cue to demonstrate what five feet looks like, I couldn’t stop thinking: Where did she even find that? Does the hospital have a pool room?

Whatever the issue, it may stop you from feeling as invested in Stella and Will as the film would like. If you’re a curable romantic, Five Feet Apart should have you up and about (and out of the theatre) in no time.

Show More

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Close