The health-issue in “Five Feet Apart,” the recent romantic drama about two teenagers in love, where at least one of them has an incurable health-issue, is cystic fibrosis, and they both have it. They meet at the hospital. Stella (Haley Lu Richardson), our video blog protagonist, somewhat passion and compulsive, is in a “focus”, as she puts it; Will (Cole Sprouse), the bad boy with soft hair and soft features from the FC world, has a bacterial infection and a pessimistic attitude towards taking his medication.
Both are free to date and fall in love with whomever they want, with one exception: because of the risk of cross-contamination, two people with cystic fibrosis can never touch each other. The general rule is to always stay six feet apart. (Reducing it to five is Stella’s version of taking a risk.)
Directed by actor Justin Baldoni from a script by debutants Mikki Daughtry and Tobias Iaconis, which is not based on a novel by Nicholas Sparks,” Five Feet Apart ” is well played by his two main roles, but most of all by Richardson, who has a natural, down-to-earth character reminiscent of Jennifer Lawrence. The chaste love of the puppy of Stella and Will is sweet, with the sad reality of their situation, always hiding on the sidelines (and often in the middle of the scene).
They are supported by Kimberly Hebert Gregory (from HBO’s “Vice Principals”) as a strict but loving nurse and by Moises Arias as a CF-er colleague (Stella’s term) who happens to be gay. Having a third patient in the mix means more possible combinations of who will live and who will die — the audience would be outraged if a movie about the health-issue of the week had no victims-but it’s still pretty predictable. Again, it is better than most of the real intrigues of Nicholas Sparks, who tend to be unpredictable, because they are crazy. This one comes pretty close to reality while ticking the boxes on what a crying teenage romance is supposed to look like.