Five Feet Apart is actually not as depressing, predictable or even as sappy as one might preconceive. The main character, Stella (Haley Lu Richardson, Columbus), appears to have a fixation with newborns and frequents the natal care unit window to gaze upon delicate and pristine life. It is there where she is first approached by Will (Cole Sprouse, TV’s “Riverdale”), though they maintain a distance mandated by their shared battles with cystic fibrosis.
Naturally, the typical teenage cat-and-mouse antics ensue, but in this case, a distinct hint of Russian roulette is propositioned as well. Will initially is seemingly much more pessimistic and resigned than Stella. Privately, she is dealing with a fresh, unrelated and unexpected family loss. She is actually quite prudish and OCD in many ways, more than likely directly related to her personal trauma.
On the cusp of adulthood, the slightly older Will prefers to throw caution to the wind. He starts out by rebelling against his treatment, a last-ditch trial run of experimental medications. Stella seems to help him “tighten up,” as he seems to help her “loosen up.” They attempt to “normalize” as much as possible, fortunately having the support of friends, family and medical staff.
The elephant in the room remains vividly depicted; desirous and engulfed, hidden behind their own frostbitten polar ice caps. They just want to touch and melt in the intent to love without hurt, already knowing that no one ever precisely receives such an offering.
The original meaning and intention of the word “bless” relates more to wounding or being wounded, not so much an outright pleasurable and lucky experience. Such an essence of “blessing” is captured in this film, and it seems to therefore bridge a gap between people and generations — the perfect/imperfect sauce of salt, sugar, honey and vinegar. A would-be highly recommended film by a therapist, provided you are in desperate need of an emotional enema.
A high note winds up being the fatalistic, bittersweet, dry-rubbed humor sprinkled in shards throughout this film. Moments of joy and laughter are a necessary tonic, none better than Will sketching Stella in his notebook as she attempts to ground him.
In this film, one thing not lacking paradoxically is the “human touch”: compassion, empathy and altruism. It will possibly compel you to long for someone who will clean up your mess of a diaper, as you grow older and infantile once more.