Five Feet Apart: Movie Review


Five Feet Apart is a new movie about cystic fibrosis.

The classic Romeo and Juliet story of two lovers unable to be with each other takes a unique spin in the movie Five Feet Apart. The movie stars Cole Sprouse and Haley Lu Richardson in an emotional love story between two patients with cystic fibrosis, a rare hereditary disease that causes patients to suffer from their bodies producing excess mucus that can clog their lungs and pancreas.


The main characters, Stella (Richardson) and Will (Sprouse) are two teenagers who have suffered their entire lives from cystic fibrosis. The two meet for the first time while at a hospital together, their rooms just a few doors apart. Within the first few minutes of their meeting, however, they are constantly plagued with the reminder to stay at least six feet apart at all times because of the danger of cross-infection.


Of course, an undeniable romance quickly blooms between the two despite their differences. Stella, an obsessive-compulsive girl that dutifully maintains her Youtube channel and to-do lists, can’t help but grow frustrated at the carefree and reckless attitude Will has towards his treatments. She requires him to do his treatments together with her, and he agrees in exchange for her allowing him to draw a picture of her. The addition of a third patient, Po (Moisés Arias) that has also been Stella’s longtime friend, adds to the dynamic of the movie; the effect is that the three of them maintain the atmosphere of being three teenagers that would have otherwise been able to lead normal lives.


The unavoidable frustration and pain of falling in love despite being unable to be close to each other lingers throughout the movie and is clearly a major factor. Yet, the connection and romance between the two are portrayed in everything from the way the two look at each other to the gifts and surprises they plan. Whereas most modern movies seem to rely heavily on physical affection for romance, Five Feet Apart certainly took a different route. Furthermore, the distance between them is emphasized in “beautifully symmetrical images that place Sprouse and Richardson on the far ends of the screen, making the distance between them as much the focus of a shot as they are” (AV Film).


Of course, the movie was also met with doubt and hesitation, as many feared that it may end up romanticizing cystic fibrosis. However, one of the mission statements of the movie was to bring awareness to the disease and the lack of a cure.


Cole Sprouse and Haley Lu Richardson also explained in an interview that they and the director were inspired by Claire Wineland, a CF patient whose nonprofit, Claire’s Place Foundation, supported and organized people with terminal and chronic illnesses. Wineland was a medical consultant for the movie before her death, and Richardson was particularly influenced by her. She explained how Claire “was so open and really wanted this film to do its job of representing her life and the life of real people with CF.” The actress added that she “did a lot of research and we had a CF nurse on set every day to get the medical stuff as accurate as possible. But, the most important thing was getting to spend time with Claire. She really taught me the emotional effect of CF on the child and the family” (Tribune News Service).


Richardson also explained how they tried their best to avoid romanticizing incorrectly portraying cystic fibrosis. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, the actress recalled how she nearly turned down the role but eventually agreed to take it on with the hope that they could “do as much justice to it is as humanly possible.” She added that because the movie was one of the first representations of the disease, everyone felt that portraying it accurately was “the No. 1 priority.” Overall, she hoped that “people with CF see this movie and really realize how much we cared and how much we wanted to do them justice.”


After watching the movie, Tommy Renteria (11) agreed that the director and actors “did an excellent job portraying the illness seriously.”


Despite the criticism Five Feet Apart has faced, it has already drawn much-needed attention to the deadly and painful disease of cystic fibrosis. Hopefully, a cure will soon be discovered to better the lives of the thousands that suffer from the disease.