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Review: ‘Five Feet Apart’: Teaches Us the Importance of Touch

Photo credit: Alfonso Bresciani

Five Feet Apart is a film audiences go into expecting to cry. The formula is simple. Sick teenager meets another sick teenager and they fall in love. The Fault in Our Stars taught us that this typically does not end well. A Walk to Remember lead us down a path where the survivor did not have a terminal illness. Five Feet Apart gives us a blending of these scenarios while keeping with the cliches we have come to know and love in these particular type of films. What I was not expecting from the movie was to sit in my chair as the credits began to roll thinking thoughtfully to myself. An ambiguous ending is not typical in these types of movies and honestly the refreshing outlook audiences need by the end of the feature.

We immediately meet Stella (Haley Lu Richardson) who is attempting to explain her world to us. She’s back in the hospital once more because of her Cystic fibrosis. To say she has her regimen down is an understatement. She takes her treatments very seriously and cannot fathom anyone not doing the same. In fact, when she meets Will (Cole Sprouse) she is bothered so much by him essentially forgoing his treatments that she makes a deal with him. As the teens begin to take and do their numerous treatments together. Through doing their treatments together the two realize they have far more in common than merely their disease, but the disease continues to keep them apart.

Despite Five Feet Apart falling into cliches it’s more than a romance. In many ways most of us learn about the struggles of Cystic fibrosis for the first time. While most of us know of the disease, we do not know the statistics or struggles behind it. Both Richardson and Sprouse show the two ends of the spectrum. One teen has pure determination coursing their veins to get better and get a lung transplant and the other has discarded treatments until they meet each other. We also see the power of positive thinking. Though the two personalities clash at first as they start to get along the best parts of each other rub off on each other. They bring the best out of each other alongside the supporting cast.

Though we see very little of most of the supporting cast, Barb (Kimberly Hebert Gregory) and Poe (Moises Arias) stand out during their time on screen. They force you to care about them as they care about our leads. While not revealing much about themselves, we still manage to care about these two characters as well. My only wish is that we could have learned a bit more about these characters outside of their lives in the hospital. What little we did learn about Poe had to do with his sexuality. What lurks beneath the surface? The urge to get to know these characters was imminent the moment they appear on screen, especially Poe. Somehow though this does not make the events of the movie, both with or without them, any less powerful.

The film makes us consider hard truths of life that Cystic fibrosis patients cannot run away from. They make us think about those around us and the things most of us can do that we take for granted. Most of us can walk up and hug just about anyone. Do germs spread? Yes, but we do not have to wonder about strands of bacteria interfering with bacteria in our bodies that when combined could make us far worse off than before.  That’s what these two teens had to worry about the duration of the film.  They remind us in many ways we should not sweat the small stuff because at the end of the day we should focus our power on far more important battles in our life to face.

Ultimately two teenagers are plopped into a cliche teen drama that centers around their illness. Instead of merely accepting their circumstances they begin to live.  They do not live for anyone else but themselves.  They take away power from something they have devoted giving too much power too.  Granted, they don’t have a choice in the matter, but they remind us that our lives are important.  Our happiness means something.  While we might not get to choose the entire path we walk, we must remember that merely having the luxury to touch someone is a blessing.  After all, all our senses allow us to truly feel pure bliss.  They allow us to partake in the world at such a young age.  Once we take even one of those senses away we are left longing for something we never thought about missing in the first place.