FILM: Five Feet Apart
by Jaydene CallaGHAn
First love is hard enough, imagine not being able to touch your partner in case you infected them with a mucus strain that could kill them. Romantic right!? But for sufferers of the genetic, incurable disease, Cystic Fibrosis, this is the reality.
Stella (Haley Lu Richardson) is a bright, friendly, slightly controlling, YouTube vid posting, CF’er. In hospital for a ‘tune up’ she is responsible for administering her own treatments and regimens after years in and out of hospitals. With Poe (Moisés Arias), a fellow CF’er and best friend, ward nurses Barb and Julie (Kimberly Hebert Gregory and Emily Baldoni), they’ve created a support network in hospital.
Enter bad boy Will (Cole Sprouse), a CF’er with a rare strain of bacteria, he is taking part in a medical trial and is the opposite of Stella. Broody and creative, he neglects his treatments and his health, catching the attention of Stella they strike a bargain. She will help him get in line with his treatments and he can draw her.
A cautious, sanitised and latex gloved friendship begins; a general guideline for CF sufferers is to keep their distance from one another by at least six feet, as the germs of one sufferer could be terminal to another. But as the relationship grows it becomes increasingly difficult for the pair to stay physically apart, cue the tissues!
While it seems like young-adult-hospital-romance is almost a sub genre of its own (think The Fault in Our Stars), Five Feet Apart still manages to grab hold of those heartstrings in spite of playing into the occasional clichéd moment. The earnest and honest performances by both Richardson and Sprouse manage to keep the film grounded, the tension and yearning to touch between them is palpable.
First time feature director Justin Baldoni (Jane the Virgin alum) spearheaded the project after he was involved in a docu-series ‘My Last Days’. It followed six terminally ill people sharing their stories while reminding the audience what positive impacts an individual can make.
The series introduced Baldoni to CF’er Claire Wineland, becoming friends, Claire was the inspiration for the film. Sadly she didn’t make it to see the finished feature but the film is dedicated to her in the credits.
In making the film Baldoni has said he hopes people walk away feeling grateful and positive about the life they have. While there has been criticism by some CF sufferers for cashing in on the disease others have praised the film for its attempts at an honest representation.
I know I walked out more knowledgeable about CF and with a red puffy face from all the tears!
Five Feet Apart is showing in Australian cinemas from March 28th