‘Five Feet Apart’ movie review: love and chronic illness

Five feet apart: Characters Will and Stella use a pool cue to measure out the five feet they agree to keep between them at all times. The unusual love story reaches audiences in a new way.

An untouchable love-story

Based on the book published in 2018, the “Five Feet Apart” film released March 15, 2019. It follows the story of two teenagers with cystic fibrosis, a genetic disorder affecting the lungs and digestive system, who fall in love under less-than desirable circumstances: they can never touch.

The movie, while heart capturing and breaking at the same time, seems to be the peak of several sensationalized media outbreaks based on the disease.

The song “I Lived” by One Republic holds special meaning for me as it was the song that my class walked out to after high school graduation. I remember watching the video, which was created in partnership with a cyclist with cystic fibrosis, Bryan Warnecke, and hearing about the disease for the first time.

A few years later, Claire Wineland came into the light as a YouTube sensation who created and used her platform to share her life with cystic fibrosis. Her story was a large part of the inspiration behind the film directed by Justin Baldoni, who met her while filming a documentary about people living life to the fullest despite suffering from chronic illnesses.

This movie was one I wanted to see partly because it co-stars Cole Sprouse, debatably everyone’s childhood crush and rising heartthrob from his role in the CW series “Riverdale” and female lead, Haley Lu Richardson, best known for her roles in “The Edge of Seventeen” and “Split,” played the role of Stella.

The story introduces Stella as an average girl who loves spending time with her friends, reading and appreciating art. Her life is complicated beyond the point of having a chronic illness when she meets the incurably frustrating Will, played by Sprouse, and the two begin to fall in love.

The complication comes with the fact that people with cystic fibrosis must remain six feet apart, or as far as a cough can travel, from other people with cystic fibrosis so as to avoid contracting each other’s bacteria. This can be fatal for their weakened immune systems. As you can infer from the movie title, the pair begins finding ways to bend the rules in an attempt to close the physical gap between them and “steals back” one foot of space.

The overarching theme of the story is the importance of physical, human touch, especially between us and those we love the most. As someone who isn’t too keen on physical touch, the story convicted me in a way. In the movie, Stella gives a piece of advice saying that, if you can, go touch the person you love.

Just watching the movie, the audience could feel the intensity and almost painful desire from both Will and Stella to reach out and break that touch barrier that is keeping them safe from death. The truth I took from it is that we as humans crave physical touch in one way or another, and so long as we have the ability to give and receive that touch, we should do just that.

The movie is a must-see. Whether it be for the hopeless romantic, the medical geek or someone like me who needs to understand the importance of physical touch to the human experience. The story is relatable in a you-only-live-once type of way and pulls on heartstrings I didn’t know I had.