With a movie like The Fault In Our Stars, Perks of Being a Wallflower, Me Without You, and now Five Feet Apart, there’s been a rise in films that deal with mental and physical health – the “sick-lit genre.” It has given attention to the issues that are brought up in these films, which have received praise from many people. However, these films bring up interesting questions as to whether these movies really are meant to be seen as advocacy for what they talk about or if they’re just mere cash-grabs from Hollywood.
Five Feet Apart, which is directed by Justin Baldoni and written by Mikki Daughtry & Tobias Iaconis, centers around a pair of teenagers who are suffering from cystic fibrosis, a life-threatening hereditary disease that affects the lungs and digestive system. The teenagers meet while they’re in the hospital and fall in love. They attempt to have a relationship, despite having to keep a certain distance away from each other due to guidelines set by the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation that states two patients should keep a minimum of six feet apart from each other in order to decrease the risk of cross infection. The film stars Cole Sprouse, Haley Lu Richardson, Moises Arias, and Kimberly Hebert Gregory.
A lot of praise has to be given to Richardson and Sprouse. Though this follows a lot of the tropes of the movies I mentioned above, their performances are what carry this movie forward. I’ve been a fan of Sprouse since his days on Disney Channel and I really enjoyed Richardson’s performance in Split. It would be hard to imagine anyone else making me care about these characters and the movie, in general, had it not been for them.
It’s important to note that neither Richardson or Sprouse are disabled. It’s a continuous act that Hollywood does not cast disabled persons in films or T.V. shows for the roles of disabled people. Even though I cannot personally relate to this, it’s upsetting to see that they aren’t given any chance or not given any confidence that disabled persons can carry roles in both movies and shows.
I wasn’t quite aware of the controversy that was surrounding this film until I watched it and heard the conversation from the couple that I was sitting next to at the theater. Most of the issues came from the film’s title and trailer. Many advocates and CF patients were upset that a film would have this kind of premise and that no doctor would ever let this happen.
This does change my mind of the movie as a whole and makes it seem like a cash-grab that capitalizes on the rise of movies that are making films like this. I can’t speak on behalf of those affected by CF, their families, advocates, or medical professionals, but I’d imagine there would be better ways to bring about a movie like this in a different manner. Being aware of the controversy that the movie caused, it makes me question a lot of the plot points. There seems to be no logical explanation as to why certain aspects of this movie would actually work.
For instance, having fallen in love with each other, Will (Sprouse) and Stella (Richardson) want nothing more than to be with each other. It starts off with simple ways to communicate but then it goes to situations that could be dangerous for CF patients like the main characters touching each others’ medications and walking together without masks on. The film also results in very cliché tropes.
One of the better aspects of the movie is the relationship between Stella and Poe (Arias). With both of them spending their days in the hospital, the friendship they formed is incredible. Halfway through the story, the film does an incredible job showing how much they care for one another. However, it would’ve loved to have seen their friendship be developed a bit more. I would’ve been more invested in the movie if it had just been their friendship.
Overall, I’d say this is an okay movie with the central leads being the only thing that people could really care about. Even before knowing about the issues that the movie was bringing up, it seemed illogical to have two patients risk their health to be together. It could be classified as a tear-jerker since quite a few people in the theater I went to were crying by the end of it. I wouldn’t really recommend seeing this movie.
Check out other films playing now like Captive State, How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, Captain Marvel, or Wonder Park. Or if you’re looking for a movie which is written and about a disabled woman falling in love, check out The Big Sick, which is available to stream on Amazon Video.
Nicolas is a pop culture critic, focusing primarily on film, tv. anime, and manga. He has a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature from San Francisco State University, which shapes the way he analyzes his work.