Serving as a roller coaster of emotions, Five Feet Apart remains its status quo as an enticing film, only occasioning falling prey to the standard textbook of Hollywood clichés. Starring leads Haley Lu Richardson and Cole Sprouse in a fascinating meditation on the very real disease known as “cystic fibrosis,” Five Feet Apart certainly implements familiar tricks to anyone who has seen even a single film in the genre. The story is about two teenagers approaching adulthood, who find love in the most unlikely of places. It’s hard to see from this initial premise how such a film could be even remotely successful. And frankly, it isn’t the premise that sells the story as a noteworthy success. Even with the somewhat drab stylistic choices, it still has real heart to it, using its two leads in a script that complements both perfectly. Instead of feeling like an actually compelling story, Five Feet Apart chooses a more mundane plot in favor of highlighting its performers, a decision that may not benefit either the film or its cast in the short term, seeing how the film is already disappointing financially, but could result in more diverse and challenging roles for these actors and actresses in the future.
Through the sharp lenses of both Will, played by Cole Sprouse, and Stella, played by similarly leading Haley Lu Richardson, we find these two characters as cystic fibrosis patients. And in its depiction, the film is reportedly accurate, an attribute that most films regarding such a topic should have. The actors were counseled by a real life cystic fibrosis patient, Claire Wineland, who unfortunately past away. It’s clear that both Wineland’s and both Sprouse’s and Richardson’s efforts to tell an authentic portrayal of the rather underscored illness flourished. It’s visible in every moment, every line of dialogue, and in every frame.
For one, Haley Lu Richardson portrayed her character in such a fashion, that it almost momentarily made me forget the sheer number of tropes that surrounded the story. The inclusion of such cheap tricks of making the audience feel emotion ultimately takes away from what Richardson was able to accomplish with her performance. And not to forget Cole Sprouse, whose performance might have been even more lively than Richardson’s. He is essentially the heart of the film, a position that he flourishes in, given that he is able to provide some depth to the hollow, melodramatic lines.