Just like Sherlock Holmes, I too am vexed with the mundane films being released. What pushes me is hoping that once in a way I will see something like Five Feet Apart. Taking a deep breath helps a lot. Ask someone suffering from a lung disease like cystic fibrosis (CF). For them, every breath is a struggle, a triumph, and a painful reminder that it may well be their last. Stella Grant (Haley Lu Richardson) is almost like a seventeen-year-old. Almost. She suffers from cystic fibrosis. Other than that, she loves her laptop and has her gang of BFFs. So is Will Newman (Cole Sprouse). Stella’s life is calculated, full of dos and don’ts, self-control and boundaries. All that goes out of the window when she meets Will.
Advancements in science in the past decade has raised the life expectancy with patients suffering from CF from 10 to at least living out the teenage. This is why when Stella walks in to the hospital, it is like a second home for her.
The staff are old friends. Especially the compassionate Barb (Kimberly Hebert Gregory). She is so used to the habitual practices that she is prepared to get her own stuffed panda, her laptop that she uses for her blog updates about living with CF and the pictures from her bedroom wall. The tragedy is that Stella knows that the best-case scenario is a lung transplant that has a lifespan of a maximum of five years. This is where she meets Will. They are poles apart. While Stella is hyper-cooperative with regards to her treatment, hoping, one day to be able to get the lung transplant, Will is a cynic and a rebel, because his prognosis is not as hopeful. The Romeo and Juliet of the CF.
Latex gloves, no touching, and six feet between them at all times, Stella falls for Will. “After all CF has taken from me, I don’t mind stealing one foot back”, she says and now starts the Five Feet Apart business. Director Justin Baldoni balances the complexities of CF and of teenage love and of loss.
People die. Even healthy young people. Illness most often than not devastate families, emotionally and financially. It is scary to love someone and it can be scarier to let someone love you, especially when you are embarrassed by your scars. “We don’t have time for delicacy,” one character says. This movie shows you, nay, requests you to make the most of the time you have left. The relationship between OCD Stella and carefree rebel Will proves that point.
Richardson plays with aplomb her role as a teenaged girl with hope, fear, hesitation, regret, and longing. Same goes for Sprouse as the in-house sarcastic rebel, lost-hope and ‘I care a darn’ guy. The drawback of the film, however is the handling of Stella’s gay best friend Poe, essayed by Moises Arias. Tragically we have seen that the “Jadoo Ki Jhappi” cannot cure all diseases and hope alone, is not enough. Stella says as much “It’s just life Will. It will be over before we know it”.
Though it does humanize the suffering, it somewhere lacks the wherewithal to go the extra mile and is somewhere between a documentary and a tragic film.
It is worth a watch if you have nothing this weekend other than to raise Hell!