“Five Feet Apart”
Very Good (3 stars)
Rated PG-13 for profanity, mature themes and suggestive material
Running time: 116 minutes
Production Companies: CBS Films / Wayfarer Entertainment
Distributors: CBS Films / Lionsgate
Stella Grant (Haley Lu Richardson) is a typical 17-year-old in most regards. However, she is also suffering from Cystic Fibrosis (CF), a genetic disease which makes her very susceptible to a variety of breathing disorders.
Consequently, she spends much of her time in the hospital receiving a “tune up” for this or that malady. She’s currently receiving treatment for bronchitis on a ward with several fellow CF patients, including her gay BFF, Poe (Moises Arias), although there is a strictly-enforced rule that they stay at least six feet apart at all times, because they could easily infect each other.
That regulation is put to the test upon the arrival of newcomer Will Newman (Cole Sprouse), a CF victim with a bacteria which would prove fatal should Stella catch it from him. For, the two kids fall in love at first sight, so they find it hard to resist their raging hormones’ urge to merge.
Luckily, nurse Barb (Kimberly Hebert Gregory) is there to monitor the movements of the young patients. She has been particularly vigilant to prevent any rendezvous on her watch, ever since an incident that led to a tragic ending.
Thus unfolds “Five Feet Apart,” a bittersweet romance drama marking the noteworthy, feature film directorial debut of actor Justin Baldoni (Jane the Virgin). Baldoni deserves considerable credit for coaxing impressive performances out of Haley Lu Richardson and Cole Sprouse who manage to generate convincing chemistry in challenging roles where they can’t touch each other.
The movie’s sole flaw rests in its unnecessarily adding a melodramatic twist more appropriate for a soap opera. During the picture’s climactic moment, we suddenly learn that Stella’s prayers for a lung transplant might have miraculously just been answered. A distracting rabbit-out-the-hat development that almost ruins an otherwise poignant love story.