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.
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.
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Video: Roadshow Films NZ
This article was first published in the April 6, 2019 issue of the New Zealand Listener.