‘5 Feet Apart’ is like any other teenage romance

Gina Wu, Staff Writer

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Cystic fibrosis, also known as CF, is a lung disease, in which patients must be kept at a minimum of six feet apart at all times to prevent chances of contracting infection. 

But what happens if two people are so madly in love that even a terminal illness like CF can’t keep them apart?

“Five Feet Apart” is a film that explores this idea of  boundaries. Directed by Justin Baldoni, “Five Feet Apart” stars actors Cole Sprouse and Haley Lu Richardson as CF patients Will Newman and Stella Grant. The teens fall in love despite the fact that there is quite literally an invisible border between them. 

Though they cannot physically be together, the two share their days by facetiming. But when the two decide that a relationship through a computer screen wasn’t enough, they start to enjoy each other’s company in secret. The two close the distance between them by one foot, standing five feet apart rather than six.

When watching the movie, the character Stella’s contagiously positive and charming personality as well as her extraordinary hope for survival reminded me of Claire Wineland, girl from a TEDx Talk that I watched two years ago.

Wineland was a CF patient who spoke to make people understand the disease and provide support for fellow patients. She was the inspiration for this film.

Baldoni met Wineland when he was filming his documentary “My Last Days,” which featured people who suffered with chronic illnesses but redefined their lives as bigger stories that were more than diseases. Wineland appeared in one of the episodes and inspired countless people with her story.

“[Wineland’s] soul is in this movie and it wouldn’t be made without her.” Baldoni said in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter. 

Indeed, Richardson’s portrayal of Stella was a splitting image of Wineland. Stella is a strong-willed and independent, girl who gives off an indescribably radiant aura. Like Wineland, she is energetic and hopeful without losing sight of reality. 

Baldoni’s passion to create a film that captures the human beings behind the disease comes through in the film. The two protagonists, as well as supporting characters, natural characteristics, like perks and flaws.

As for the movie’s romantic aspect, the film was advertised as a forbidden teenage love with the addition of a tragic reality, which is exactly what it is. The plot and lines are shamelessly cliché, but perhaps that’s part of what makes it appealing to the young target audience of teenage girls.

Swooning and crying  could be heard from the audience, a reaction that is perhaps the best compliment to a teen-focused romantic movie. 

But the film is ultimately shallow and tries too hard to brand itself as a heart-wrenching tearjerker. Baldoni’s new film fails to transcend the general formula of a cliché romance and provide anything that explores the depth of human emotions. 

As a romance, “Five Feet Apart” is purely another addition to the shelf of adolescent love stories that we have all seen before. Plus, Richardson and Sprouse do not have the best on-screen chemistry and the script was nothing more than a classic teenage romance that deliberately tries to flutter the hearts of its audience.

The movie does, however, contain characters that the audience can understand and relate to. Additionally, Baldoni’s very intention of making a film that sheds light on the reality of being a CF patient is admirable.

The one thing that sets “Five Feet Apart” apart from other films of the same genre is the fact that Stella’s character is based on a real person, making her much more realistic and the film itself more powerful.