Five Feet Apart (2019)

Directed by Justin Baldoni

Screen Shot 2019-03-24 at 11.17.38 AM.png

Alright so I watched the sick kids falling in love movie.  I don’t mean to be reductive or to take away from the story here, but Five Feet Apart is a young adult romance that very much just follows the template of 2014’s The Fault in Our Stars.  Going back even further it’s a story of doomed teenaged love, a modern day Romeo & Juliet, with their shared love meant to feel so pure and honest while greater forces keep them apart.  There’s even a moment here in which the girl comes back to life while the boy appears to leave it.

Genre conventions aside, there’s a lot to like here.  Played by Haley Lu Richardson and Cole Sprouse, Stella and Will have a nice chemistry, even if their dynamic is quite *neat*. See, she’s a firm rules follower with a touch of OCD who takes great pride in organizing her med cart (a friend says it’s her form of forplay).  In contrast, stop me if you’ve heard this one before, Will is a rules breaker.  See, he figures we’re all dying anyways, so what’s the point?  He does cool teenager things like hangout on the roof and ask pointed questions because good manners are bullish*t anyways, right?

Basically she’s Lisa Simpson and he’s James Dean, because that’s how these things have to work out.  It’s the same thing in The Fault in Our Stars and surely a bunch of other young adult movies, and I suppose it’s only this way because this plays into some kind of unconscious (?) ideal one gender has in mind for the other.  It’s a Pinterest fantasy, in other words.

And that’s strange, now that I think about it, because this is very much a movie about fantasy… all while it’s set inside a hospital with a bunch of terminal diagnoses.  But that speaks to the strange, tortured, dramatic worlds of teenagers.  It’s as if to fall in love (or infatuation) isn’t enough, because it needs to be special, not just for the two people involved but the greater world as well.  It has to stand out, to be made famous, and the easiest way to do that is to have death knocking at their door.

Two young attractive people in love is nice, but why should anyone care?  Think about the filtered news app on your phone.  There are plenty of beautiful couples out there whom you’ve never heard of until they’ve died in some cliff diving accident and boom, suddenly you’re reading a quick biography of their lives after it’s too late.  It’s certainly sad, but there’s an obvious morbid curiosity to all of this.

I mean in this movie, you know someone’s got to die.  That’s how these things work, just like the melodramatic turn in some romantic drama or the first round of ‘surprise’ deaths in a slasher movie.  And yeah, someone dies, but not exactly how you think.

In Five Feet Apart Stella and Will meet and fall in love over the course of a month (I was surprised it had only been a month).  They both have Cystic fibrosis, a disease of the lungs which comes with a tragically short life expectancy and a higher sensitivity to airborne germs.  While they can be in contact with those unaffected, “CF-ers” can’t come within six feet of each other for fear of catching each other’s germs.

So Stella and Will know this, but they fall in love regardless because, well they have to.  When Stella is horrified to find out that Will isn’t keeping up with his meds routine, she begs him to let her help.  He agrees only as long as she lets him draw her…

Some of those schmaltzy moments really get in the way here, but I swear there’s a nice, wholesome movie in the middle, though the schmaltz factor just really wears you out near the end.  There’s one scene where they go on their first date, or maybe second, and they hold a five foot long pool cue between them since Stella has decided to shatter the rules and take one foot away from the disease which has taken so much away from her.

Will says he wants to touch her, and so she grabs her end of the cue and starts to sensually touch herself with it.  I haven’t been made this uncomfortable since the scene from Downsizing in which Matt Damon rubs lotion on a woman’s amputated stump and incidentally brings her to climax (this actually happened, what an unsettling movie).

Watching this scene here, in a theater no less (just trying to put my AMC stubs pass to good use on a slow afternoon), I felt like I was really watching something I shouldn’t be… {shivers} …man that was a tough hang.

And then the movie really jumps the shark in the third act.  There’s just your average falling through the ice moment, the doomed mouth to mouth, and then Stella wakes up from an intense surgery still with the breathing tubes in her mouth while Will and all the available hospital staff set up a visual spectacle to bring her to tears.  Which, I mean that’s not professional, right?  And after such a procedure, it seems you should do everything you can to keep her calm, not absolutely f*ckin’ devastate her, particularly as it turns out to be an unnecessary goodbye, one made to seem final but which definitely would not be considering they have cell phones.

Man what a trip, but I do love a good hermetically sealed movie, stories like this told in isolated worlds, be it a hospital, an airport (Terminal), a hotel (The ShiningThe Lobster) or even a spaceship (Passengers, Wall-E kind of).

Up Next: The Sisters Brothers (2018), They Live (1988), Halloween (1978)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s