If you don’t enjoy crying in a cinema, there really is no need to read on. The latest American romantic drama, Five Feet Apart, recalls a tragic tale of teenagers, portrayed by Cole Sprouse (Will) and Haley Lu (Stella), crippled by cystic fibrosis. Tear ducts at the ready, because to say this was a tearjerker would be the understatement of the century.
The movie is based on Katie and Dalton Prager, who became known as the real world ‘Fault in our Stars’ couple after CNN wrote on their forbidden love story. As the name suggests, despite entering into a relationship, they have to stay five feet apart from each other to avoid cross infection.
The thing that I struggle with the most when it comes to movies, is that I always enter into them with preexisting expectations and associations. I feel as though I know how every film will end based on familiar tropes of a certain genre, or I’ve simply just heard too much unfettered background noise from social media.
Those moments when you walk into a movie with none of the above are precious, and I walked into the critics screening of Five Feet Apart feeling free of such burdens. But, while a blessing, I was not prepared for what was to come.
Five Feet Apart recalls two patients harrowing journey through a disease I knew very little about. And it is here that this movie is truly remarkable, it’s almost like a horror film, but rather than focusing on headcount it focuses on something even more horrifying; the human condition. The two build a relationship with huge buy-in potential, one where you can almost feel the chemistry between the two characters oozing out of the screen. It’s basically a traditional courtship, except they are both terminally ill and this love story is confined to the walls of a hospital.
It’s heartbreaking from the get-go, mainly because it’s so easy to forget the novelties awarded to those blessed with good health, and immediately the film acts as a reality check. But not one of those severely overdone, overdramatised ones - but one based on truth and fact about a horrible disease.
The hardest part to grasp is that despite the scary setup, their greatest threat is….each other, it’s...love itself. The movie was riddled with dread, dread because we could see the unfortunate fate looming above the young-lovers heads, and because we knew the imminent mistakes they were bound to make. The heroine, Stella, is a remarkable character, and not because she's sick, but because she is aggressively charming and convincingly intelligent. Will is equally likeable, and you can’t fault their chemistry.
Without giving too much away, the plot is refreshingly ‘real’, rid of definitive climaxes and cliched endings. It follows their extensive daily treatments and highlights the little details that mark their days.
If this were classified a generic romance, the ending would likely be considered disappointing by many, but it isn’t. They say that in horror films a killer looms in every corner, and if this were to be said about this bloodless-horror, a killer looms in time itself. Time because, although true for all of us, death is not a matter of if, it is a matter of when. Every decision they make could be the difference between life and death.
Five Feet Apart is in cinemas March 28th.