Director Justin Baldoni takes a fairly generic hospital-based romantic drama story and makes it an emotional and enjoyable ride. Five Feet Apart follows two teenagers with cystic fibrosis who meet and fall in love, however due to their disease they can’t get too close to each other with the risk of worsening their condition.
When it comes to the story, Five Feet Apart isn’t anything spectacular. Im talking in relation to the way the story progresses and the natural arc the characters take over time. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s predictable, because it’s not, it just makes its way through a very good but also quite straightforward story. One thing I must praise is it’s a very meticulously well paced film from beginning to end. It’s very easy for a story like this to hit a few brick walls where is slows down to develop relationships and deal with emotional stress. But much like the characters do in the story, the film keeps powering forward and pushing through any urge to slow things down or rush over details.
It’s a heart-wrenching and also charming love story all the way down to the unbreakable chemistry between Haley Lu Richardson (Stella) and Cole Sprouse (Will). There’s never a dull moment that fails to entertain when the two of them are together on screen. Due to the nature of the film and the messages it’s sending through the story it’s dealing with very emotional content and it’s all highly engaging. The building of their relationship is organic, it works, you feel like you understand both of their perspectives, and it all comes down to their performances.
Haley Lu Richardson is an actress who I have had my eye on for a few years since The Edge of Seventeen (2016), as she continues to deliver strong performances. In this film she is doing more of the carrying when it comes to the relationship with Cole Sprouse. She puts all of her effort into delivering impactful emotional content through a strong performance. There isn’t a moment in the film where she breaks character or seems out of place. She completely embodies the tone and romantic touch of the story. Cole is also good, alongside Haley the two make a fantastic pairing. He has his impactful emotional moments but for the most part he plays a pretty mellow character, so where Haley shows her talents with outward behaviour, Cole focuses more of that inwards with smaller details.
When it comes to supporting characters, Poe (Moises Arias) and Barb (Kimberly Hebert Gregory) are really nice touches sitting just on the outside of the relationship between Stella and Will. They do their part in contributing to the emotion and heart of the story as they appear in quite a few scenes throughout the film. When it comes to the comedy there’s nothing overly hilarious due to the quite sombre and serious nature of the the story but there’s some charming and humorous moments between the characters when they’re allowed to have a bit of fun.
Five Feet Apart doesn’t do anything wrong. Yes, it has a straightforward story that gets you from A to B, but that doesn’t ruin the enjoyment when you have the performances from Haley Lu Richardson and Cole Sprouse to focus on. It’s emotional, charming, and is a good watch on a cold night in front of a fire with some tissues.