Five Feet Apart – who could have known that the entire world would share the social distance experience depicted in this movie released on March 15, 2019?
We chose to review this movie, as the coronavirus pandemic tears the “world as we know it” apart, social distancing people and creating the level of uncertainty that is both terrifying and liberating at the same time. Change is inevitable, as we all learn to embrace the “new normal,” and adjust to the best of our ability. We will get through this together, albeit 6 feet apart.
Five Feet Apart Social Distancing
In “Five Feet Apart,” Stella (Haley Lu Richardson) a teenager with cystic fibrosis meets Will (Cole Sprouse from Riverdale), a newcomer to the hospital where she is residing. They both share the same disease and are undergoing a new drug trial for the antibiotic-resistant infection.
At the start of the movie, Stella and Will really don’t mix. She is an obsessive-compulsive and effusive woman, who dutifully takes her meds and keeps an upbeat YouTube diary about her life. He, however, is a cynical artist and rule-breaker convinced that they are both living on borrowed time.
As they both have cystic fibrosis, they must avoid physical contact in order to protect one another.
Although it takes some time, Stella eventually gets Will to take his treatment schedule more seriously, in exchange for Will being allowed to draw her portrait – an old favorite when it comes to romance. From there, of course, the two start to fall madly in love, carrying a pool cue between them on their date at the hospital, in order to stay within the rules of keeping the necessary social distance.
Intimacy at Five Feet Apart
Impossibility of intimacy created by the 5-feet-apart rule (6-feet apart has become 5, as Stella “steals” a foot back), creates an inherently obvious tension on-screen, so-much-so, that something as simple as Will extending a hand causes the audience to instinctively flinch at the thought of them touching. A poignant scene filled with tension takes place at the hospital pool, as this is where Will and Stella have their first date. The scene is intense, as the young lovers long for each other, with just the length of a pool cue keeping them at a safe social distance.
What is very special about “Five Feet Apart” is that it is the first widely accessible Hollywood movie that raised tremendous awareness of cystic fibrosis, helping draw attention to the under-supported fight to cure one of nature’s cruelest genetic diseases. Although the film is often predictable, Baldoni’s debut feature definitely has a different and more pointed agenda than the popular “The Fault in Our Stars”.
On a similar note, cystic fibrosis isn’t a mystery illness the romance genre so commonly relies on. Throughout the entire movie, we’re witnessing what is a daily reality for hundreds to thousands of people. From the never-ending cycle of trays filled with medicine to the use of vibrating jackets to bring up the phlegm, ‘’Five Feet Apart’’ does a great job exposing the reality of living with an incurable disease.
Although it’s definitely not considered to be a perfect representation by far, Stella and Will feel like real people and not just props for another cry fest. Hayley Lu Richardson is lovely and utterly charming as a young woman who is putting on a positive front in order to avoid slipping into the hands of despair.
Arias has the zany energy expected from a secondary role, although what happens to his character is a common cliché of this particular genre. Sprouse, who has already considered a teen heartthrob thanks to his role as Jughead, adds the depth that is needed when it comes to the typical bad-boy character. Both Richardson and Sprouse bounce off one another perfectly, adding to the romance and tension that builds to the movie’s finale, where they break the rules of no contact.
To maintain the illusion of intimacy without touching, the director Justin Baldoni, plays constant tricks with the focal lengths of the camera. This means Richardson and Sprouse are often framed to appear close together before cutting to a wide-angle shot that reveals they’re their actual social distance. This game of cameras with the social distance and space intensifies the heart-breaking story.
“Five Feet Apart” has a lot of wisdom to share about the uncertainties of life, as it shows characters whose love pushes them to experience what life has to offer, while struggling to survive. “It’s just life, it’ll be over before you know it” – the statement that becomes a mantra that takes on new meaning each and every time we hear it. After all, if life is going to be over before we know it, why should we waste a second?
Director Justin Baldoni
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Writers Mikki Daughtry, Tobias Iaconis
Stars Haley Lu Richardson, Cole Sprouse, Claire Forlani, Moises Arias, Parminder Nagra
Genres Drama, Romance