“Five Feet Apart”: Terminal teens risk lives for romance

Olivia Wilber, staff writer

To measure the distance, Will, played by Cole Sprouse, and Stella, played by Hayley Lu Richardson, hold a pool stick between them on their first official date. “Five Feet Apart” was released March 15. image courtesy of CBS

Human contact. Is it necessary? The movie “Five Feet Apart” explores this question as it tracks the impossible romance of Stella (Haley Lu Richardson) and Will (Cole Sprouse). Stella and Will are both cystic fibrosis (CF) patients whose rooms are down the hall from each other at Saint Grace Regional Hospital. Will also has a dangerous bacteria called B. Cepacia.
When the two patients first meet, it isn’t love at first sight. Will barely cares whether he lives or dies and he refuses to do his treatments. This frustrates Stella beyond belief. Stella has control issues, and once she recognizes that Will isn’t following his regimen, she makes a deal with him. Will says he’ll do his treatments with Stella, but only if he gets to draw her. Stella isn’t crazy about the idea, but reluctantly agrees.
As the two do their treatments over Facetime each day, they begin to learn more and more about each other. They hit some speed bumps along the way as they brush up on each other’s past traumas, but even when fighting, nothing can keep the two apart. Well, besides 6 feet.
Cystic fibrosis patients are required to keep a distance of 6 feet from each other to avoid cross-contamination. You might be wondering why the title isn’t “Six Feet Apart.” Well, Stella realizes that CF has stolen so much life from her that she might as well take something back. One foot. They get an extra foot closer for one night, but Nurse Barb (Kimberly Hebert Gregory) makes sure the two stay far away from each other after that. Will and Stella have to make sure Nurse Barb is distracted when they go on “dates.”
When they sneak out of the hospital to see the city lights, they stop to play on an ice-coated river. Stella falls through the ice and Will has to decide if giving her mouth-to-mouth will save her, or kill them both.
“Five Feet Apart” managed to humanize the effects of cystic fibrosis and make the characters relatable. Will and Stella’s romance shows just how much human contact is needed by those you love. Personally, I think touch is so important in any relationship. It was difficult to see the character’s pain and sadness while knowing there’s nothing anyone can do to comfort them. Richardson and Sprouse play the roles perfectly. They make you want to cry with them, and you just wish you could reach out and help in some way. At the same time, they are able to use their characters to lighten the mood of the movie’s underlying meaning. “It’s only life, it’ll be over before you know it,” as Will and Stella both say in the film.
I think first-time feature director Justin Baldoni did a great job with the film. I feel like it would be really difficult to capture a love story when the actors have to stay 5 feet apart at all times. He made the hospital seem like a fun place to live in by having the characters explore all parts of the hospital and showing all of the main rooms. I also really loved the movie’s original soundtrack. Every song was perfect for the mood of the scene. The sad music was a nice extra touch.
I’ll admit the movie is a tear jerker, so if you’re looking for a sad love movie to watch alone or with a group of friends, I would recommend “Five Feet Apart.” Everyone loves a good cry sometimes.