CREDIT: Alfonso Bresciani

Starring: Haley Lu Richardson, Cole Sprouse, Moises Arias, Kimberly Hebert Gregory, Parminder Nagra, Claire Forlani, Emily Baldoni, Cynthia Evans, Gary Weeks, Sophia Bernard, Cecilia Leal

Director: Justin Baldoni

Running Time: 116 Minutes

Rating: PG-13 for Medical Minutiae and Sensuality

Release Date: March 15, 2019

I have a sharply adverse physiological reaction to needles, so I am not especially excited about the prospect of a movie set entirely in a hospital. Five Feet Apart does indeed remain ensconced in a medical facility, but it is actually rather merciful, for the most part, in its depiction of medical equipment inserted into bodies. But that does not mean it is without its icky moments. It focuses on a group of young people with cystic fibrosis, a genetic disorder that primarily affects the lungs and as such leads to a lot of discharged mucus. As someone who is pretty much constantly congested, I am quite familiar with mucus and in fact have been able to find amusement in its expulsion. But it is a little harder to bear in Five Feet Apart, in which every mucus-filled cough sounds like it could be deadly.

While director Justin Baldoni (best known as Rafael on Jane the Virgin) brings us down into the muck, he knows, as we all do, that the real reason for a movie about terminally ill young people is an overwrought love story. It’s a classic opposites-attract pairing, holding close to the stereotypes to an excruciating degree, despite the actors’ most charming efforts. Stella Grant’s (Haley Lu Richardson) CF diagnosis has led her to become a control freak, which means that she makes it her mission to ensure that the devil-may-care Will Newman (Cole Sprouse) will stick to his medical regimen.

The twist that superficially separates Five Feet Apart from any other entry in this genre is that Stella and Will are not supposed to stand closer than six feet apart from each other, lest they catch each other’s infections. Their resolution to take one foot back (hence the title) comes across more as foolhardy than as romantic. I appreciate promulgating the idea that anyone, even those with terminal diseases, can fall in love and express that love (one scene in which Stella and Will strip down to their skivvies and show off their scars is a beautiful moment of vulnerability), but if it’s going to play out on the big screen, it could really use some more crackling dialogue than what we have here.

Five Feet Apart is Recommended If You Like: The Fault in Our Stars, Midnight Sun, Everything, Everything

Grade: 2 out of 5 Pill Cocktails

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