#REVIEW: “FIVE FEET APART”
Review by David Baldwin for Mr. Will Wong
Stella (Haley Lu Richardson) has Cystic Fibrosis and spends her time living in a hospital, confined to a moderately quarantined existence. She has a regimented pill schedule, a YouTube page and is doing everything she can to live in spite of the insurmountable odds against her. By chance, she meets Will (Cole Sprouse), another teenager living with CF on her floor. They start up a friendship which gradually grows into something much deeper, but the disease they share stands to keep them apart.
It’s difficult to watch Five Feet Apart and not think of The Fault in Our Stars. Both films feature two beautiful teenagers who fall in love despite their debilitating illnesses, and both films have stories that become emotionally manipulative more times than they are willing to admit. But where Stars was obsessed and consumed by the fear of death, Five Feet Apart is a little more upbeat and optimistic. It still dabbles in death, devastation and is more predictable than it should be, but the Film lets the characters breathe more and have more fun with their hokey and often ridiculous dialogue. It knows very well that it is a Teen Romance and never ventures far out of that wheelhouse – except during some odd turns in the third act that caused myself and the audience around me to practically scream at the screen.
For whatever cosmic reason, Richardson has yet to break out and become a huge star. And it is a crying shame to know that, because her work here is just as fantastic as we have come to expect from this incredible young talent. She is fragile, expressive and captivating right from the start, delicately balancing every emotion Stella is confronted by. She brings an authentic edge to the character and does a great job crystalizing the toll CF takes on young peoples’ bodies. She is wonderful on her own, but her chemistry with Sprouse is a joy to watch bloom over the course of Five Feet Apart. He plays Will with the same pompous, entitled attitude he does Jughead on Riverdale, and it works in most cases and is slightly irritating in others. He too brings an edge to his character and does well with the range of emotions he goes through. But making the character a little more unique to the Film would have gone a long way.
Supporting turns from Moises Arias as fellow CF patient Poe and Kimberly Hebert Gregory as Nurse Barb are both enjoyable – with Gregory nailing the most devastating moment in the entire Film.
Five Feet Apart knows its genre and its audience – and does its very best to not stray far from it. And if you set those expectations right from the start, you will not be disappointed by this romantic sick teenager melodrama that follows. It is enjoyable and might make you tear up, even when it leans a bit too hard into predictability and ludicrous twists. But no matter the shortcoming, the absolutely fabulous lead performance from Richardson shines through everything and demands to be seen. This brilliant young Actress is destined for greater things – and her work here is just another terrific example from this future mega star.
eOne Films release FIVE FEET APART on Friday, March 15, 2019.