There have been enough ‘terminal teen’ movies for it to be considered a genre in itself – describing those YA romances that have a tragic twist with one or both of the main characters doomed to suffer from an often deadly disease.
While Five Feet Apart does fall into this category, for much of its running time it rises above the usual weepie clichés and is a warm, often moving film (tissues are advised) that also highlights the devastating genetic disease that is cystic fibrosis.
Teen Stella (Richardson) is in hospital to be treated for an infection, something CF sufferers are particularly susceptible to. The incurable disease affects her lungs, and she has to follow a strict regimen of drugs to control it, and also can’t come into direct contact with another CF patient as they could infect each other with potentially lethal bacteria.
Spending her time messaging fellow patient Poe (Arias) and posting YouTube videos about her life and condition, Stella meets brooding CF sufferer Will (Riverdale’s Sprouse) in the hospital corridors and the pair gradually become friends even though they have to maintain a safe distance (the five feet apart of the title).
The first two thirds of this movie are terrific as both the audience and Will get to know Stella, and learn more about cystic fibrosis and how she and fellow patients live and cope with it.
Unfortunately, the plot takes something of an unrealistic turn for the final third, ending with one of those grand gestures these movies always have but would be impossible to pull off in real life. It’s a shame, as there are great performances from Richardson, Sprouse and Arias to enjoy, as well as nice support from Kimberly Hebert Gregory as the world weary Nurse Barb.
Is Five Feet Apart suitable for kids? Here are our parents’ notes...
This movie is aimed at teenagers and the subject matter may be too upsetting for younger viewers.
There are references to drugs and sex, and one character is shown dying which is quite distressing.
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