If “The Fault in Our Stars” and “Romeo and Juliet” had a baby, it would be CBS Film’s new romantic drama “Five Feet Apart.”
The film follows the story of two cystic fibrosis (CF) patients, Stella Grant (Haley Lu Richardson) and Will Newman (Cole Sprouse), as they fall in love while one is in treatment and the other is in a drug trial at the same hospital.
The problem? People with CF must stay at least six feet apart from each other to minimize the risk of cross-infection. To top it off, Will has a bacterial infection — B. cepacia — which would ruin Stella’s chance at new lungs if she got infected. This film takes star-crossed lovers to the extreme.
Richardson stars as the clinically OCD, rule-following Stella Grant. One of the items on Stella’s bucket list is to spread the word about CF. She does so by creating a YouTube vlog of her journey with the disease — she videos her various treatments but maintains a positive attitude throughout the process.
Richardson is remarkably authentic and vulnerable throughout the film, and she illustrates her character’s neuroses with incredible care. On Richardson’s Instagram, she opened up about the time she spent with Claire Wineland, a real person living with CF, and how interacting with Wineland impacted the way she portrayed Stella. There’s a line in the movie where Stella decides she’s had enough of living for her treatments, and she wants to start doing her treatments to live. That line was inspired by a conversation with Wineland.
If you were raised on the Disney Channel classic “Suite Life of Zack and Cody,” Cole Sprouse’s name probably rings a bell. Sprouse plays Will Newman, the Byronic hero of sorts. Will is moody, defiant and artistic — and he’s head over heels for Stella Grant. He gets her to open up about her past, explore the topic of death and take risks, all while learning how to be more disciplined and careful with his own life and treatments. Sprouse’s brooding aura perfectly fit the character, as did his sarcastic and witty nature.
These roles demand so much out of the actors, both physically and emotionally. Having a terminal illness is incredibly taxing. There are moments of pure ecstasy between the two, yet the film constantly reminds viewers of the pool-stick distance they have to maintain.
With a Rotten Tomatoes score of 53 percent and an audience score of 81 percent, both the heart of the film and its clichés are taken into account. Sure, it’s another rendition of a story we’ve heard a thousand times, but it tugs at your heart strings — making you believe in love of all shapes, sizes and forms, all while raising awareness of a terminal illness. Isn’t that what we need more of right now?