18th Mar2019

‘Five Feet Apart’ Review

by Jak-Luke Sharp

Stars: Haley Lu Richardson, Cole Sprouse, Claire Forlani, Moises Arias, Parminder Nagra, Emily Baldoni, Gary Weeks, Kimberly Hebert Gregory, Cynthia Evans | Written by Mikki Daughtry, Tobias Iaconis | Directed by Justin Baldoni


Justin Baldoni’s Five Feet Apart, on the surface, is your casual generic and conventional teen drama that evokes a similar sense of “impending doomed romance” that plays with every cliché it can. However, while undoubtedly Five Feet Apart is your bona fide Romeo + Juliet meets John Green’s Fault in Our Stars, it is convicted in an emotionally compelling and deeply poignant prowess with two fantastic lead performances from Cole Sprouse and Haley Lu Richardson.

Sprouse, in particular, impresses dearly. His first feature starring role in eight years, with his last appearance with his twin sibling Dylan Sprouse in the famed Disney Channel sequel show The Suite Life on Deck in 2011. However, Sprouse has been heavily active in the acting circuit – including his role as Jughead Jones on Netflix’s cult TV show Riverdale, beginning in 2016, which has earned him rave reviews. Sprouse spreads his emotional and dramatic range with a terrific performance. His character Will is tormented and emotionally despondent to the world surrounding him with Cystic Fibrosis slowly defeating his expectations and enjoyment of daily life. His struggle internal torture is conveyed in a subtle manner with terrific stoic delivery and clarity via distribution of dialogue that is neither heavy-handed nor simplistic, especially considering the material. The charisma and charm are both here in abundance and thankfully it neither lows itself to a “fuck boy” level of engagement. It’s actually rather level headed and slick. Ultimately bringing forth a poignant delicate grace in the film’s final act.

It is, however, Haley Lu Richardson that steals the entire show with an outstanding performance as Cystic Fibrosis fighter Stella. The emotional gravitas and weight Richardson holds in her character is outstanding. The charisma and charm, much like Sprouse, is here in such a wonderful abundance with an instant connection to the character. The purity and joy, as well as the heart-warming rollercoaster that Stella and Will travel on, is not only emotively dramatic but also wonderfully poignant and warm with a touching element on the simplistic little things in life taken for granted. Richardson is sure to be on track for a fabulous flowering career after showing her range and ability with Kogonada’s superbly crafted drama Columbus, released a year previously. In Five Feet Apart we’re undeniably seeing the evolution of a possible future academy award winner on screen, however, much like evolution of craft their needs to be an evolution of choices in her filmography, Richardson has drastically been side-lined to supporting characters throughout her developing career, rather than the powerfully emotive lead actress she so skilfully inhabits with unhesitating compelling confidence. Five Feet Apart is hopefully the stepping stone to showcase her talent on a bigger stage of which casting agents are sure to find exemplary.

Five Feet Apart does, however, have its slight downfalls. Specifically, the generic teen conventional romance schlock that is present here is in leaps and bounds. The music video aesthetic with a slow-motion, medium shot with non-diegetic sounds, in particular, is in full force and while it doesn’t completely dampen the overall enjoyment or impact, it is utilised far too much as an easy and manipulative way  to move the audience without much effort from the filmmakers present, almost a cheat if you will and by doing so slips into a almost exploitive territory. Especially considering its far too excessive usage that ultimately dampens each and every emotional turn that occurs. Restricting the audience to truly resonate in the emotional distress on screen with the same cinematic tool slowly but surely executed in little fortune.

Five Feet Apart is in US cinemas now, the film hits UK cinemas on Friday March 22nd.


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