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Five Feet Apart is another sickly-sweet story about terminal teens

Nurse, prep the morphine. Here comes another sickly-sweet story of terminal teens in love in the time-honoured manner of Me Before You, The Fault in Our Stars and Me and Earl and the Dying Girl.

Five Feet Apart follows two adolescents who are facing uncertain prognoses. Stella (Hayley Lu Richardson) is an optimist with OCD and a YouTube channel; Will (Cole Sprouse) is a brooding artist with little hope that he’ll live much beyond his 18th birthday.

Both have cystic fibrosis. They meet during a ward-bound stint of “tune-ups” and fall for each other. It is, as one character says, a “hot hospital romance” without the hotness: any contact between them could trigger a fatal infection. The Fault in Our Lungs, in other words.

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Five Feet Apart features heavy doses of saccharine, a course of powerful tweeness and an aggressive, manipulative closing-act series of disasters. Laughter is always the best medicine, though, and Richardson is about the only decent thing going here, a charming, earnest, and honest presence in a film that relies heavily on contrivance. Sprouse, meanwhile, merely smoulders for two hours.

Some may well swoon over its chaste romance. But the touch-free novelty factor in this latest addition to the genre of terminal teen romances isn’t enough to stop it from being another formula weepie.



Video: Roadshow Films NZ

This article was first published in the April 6, 2019 issue of the New Zealand Listener.