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MOVIE REVIEW: Acting lifts schmaltzy ‘Five Feet Apart’ to another level

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Vicky Sparks

It’s a tale as old as time. Two impossibly beautiful teenagers fall in love only to be ripped apart by the fact that one or both of them is dying.

What started in 1979 with Love Story continues in 2019 with Five Feet Apart.

Five Feet Apart tells the tale of two teens with cystic fibrosis. One is good girl Stella (played by Haley Lu Richardson) determined to beat her disease with organization and rigorous adherence; the other is a bad boy named Will (played by Cole Sprouse) who has given up on everything, but, yes, Stella (insert eye roll here).

The plot features as many clichés as you would expect from an over-the-top teenage romance – a gay best friend, nurses (a nice sub in for parents) determined to keep them apart for their own good, dramatic speeches about how no one over the age of 18 understands what it’s like to feel this way, and an excellent floppy haircut for its heartthrob that requires him to push his hair out of his eyes every 30 seconds.

And yet, despite all this, I found myself sucked in, rooting for this young couple that found a way to be happy in the face of impossible circumstances.

The fact that you can take this movie even a little bit seriously is due entirely to the performances turned in by Haley Lu Richardson, Cole Sprouse and Moises Arias, who plays the obligatory gay bff.

Each of them turn one-note characters into flawed, layered kids doing the best they can in the face of death at far too young an age.

The title comes from the six-foot distance people with CF are required to stay away from one another in order to prevent infections. For these star-struck love birds, a stolen foot of space has to be as good as a stolen kiss or they could literally die.

The fact this is a love story that exists for two people unable to touch one another adds a surprisingly touching (pardon the pun) element.

If you’ve ever found yourself hiding your tears in a Nicholas Sparks movie or dropping a dramatic “love means never having to say you’re sorry” into conversation from time to time, you’ll be able to see through the schmaltz and find the heart of Five Feet Apart.

Just don’t forget the Kleenex.


Vicky Sparks is a Bright’s Grove native and movie critic for Global TV’s The Morning Show, which airs nationally on Fridays. Her Journal Reviews cover movies playing at Galaxy Cinemas Sarnia

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