Five Feet Apart, directed by Justin Balconi, may be one of the best movies you’ve never heard about. Based on the real life experience of Katie Donovan and Dalton Prager, the movie recounts the story of two teenagers, Stella and Will, who both have cystic fibrosis and who fall in love despite the necessity to maintain a distance of six feet between them to avoid the transfer of bacteria.
Although cystic fibrosis is not a contagious disease, complications can arise when two patients of cystic fibrosis come into close contact. The transfer of new bacteria to someone living with cystic fibrosis can be devastating, even fatal. The standard protocol typically used to prevent contact is to maintain a distance of six feet. So why is the movie called “Five Feet Apart?” In the movie, Stella tells Will that because cystic fibrosis has taken so much from them, she’s taking something back – one foot.
Critics’ response to the movie is mixed, with Rotten Tomatoes giving it a 52 percent approval rating, but the box office draw in its opening weekend was 30 percent higher than its anticipated $6-10 million.
“This movie was extremely touching and heartwarming to me because my cousin has been struggling with cystic fibrosis her whole life,” said Sadie Gaul ’20. “As a fairly unknown disease by teens, I love that there will be more awareness in our community. When meeting people with cystic fibrosis in their everyday lives it may seem like a minor disease without many side effects. This is the impression my cousin gives off, however she has to undergo four hours of treatment every day to be able to remain active and healthy. Watching this movie breaks my heart in every way.”
“I’m so excited to watch a movie about my own disease!” Amanda Strouth, cousin of Sadie Gaul expresses to her family and friends on Facebook, after struggling with this disease her entire life.
The two main characters are adeptly portrayed by Haley Lu Richardson and Cole Sprouse, two actors known mainly by teeangers, but probably not by their parents. In spite of their youth, Haley and Cole gave mature performances, nuanced with moments of real tenderness sprinkled with surprising optimism. Don’t get me wrong; you will cry, possibly uncontrollably, throughout this movie, so take your kleenex.