We each have our time-wasting habits that cause us to forget just how short life really is. You could anticipate habitually checking on social media to last only a minute, then suddenly a half hour later are googling why you should use bourbon for a chocolate chip cookie recipe. Those procrastination moments halt our livelihood to borderline existing in solitude, sleepless with apple pie a la mode heated without the strawberry ice cream (or non-canned whipped cream) on top. Five Feet Apart attempts to dramatize that concept of how valuable time with others is, but ultimately dissatisfies anyone who is not of its intended age group, as much as it gets some core ideas right.
The focus centers around two patients suffering from cystic fibrosis, Stella and Will, whose idiocy harms each other to the extent where they’re hard to cheer on. Even while Will later displays a heart, it ultimately satisfies your moral high ground once they reap what they sow. Everyone else around them, patients and staff, acts aloof due to the weakly written tragedy, in empty attempts to replicate another classic romance, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Putting the two between ice and stars does not make Will less of a jerk, nor does copying that iconic shot make Stella as empathetic as Clementine Kruczynski.
Although Stella and Will could die any day, alone, hospitalized, of which the movie mostly stays inside of; the emotional separation enables easy befriending of sadness like any emotional separation you’ve felt before. You will remember those broken bonds as the camera emphasizes Stella and Will’s six-foot distance; much different than the intent of most romantic dramas that want to get intimate, this pulls back to set the waterworks off.
Plenty of details expose Stella’s living condition in a nutshell: a stuffed panda gift from her dead sister connects to bamboo that decorates a meditation room she sits in, which in turn is the subject of a poster on her door. Together, these subtle clues generate comprehension out of her desperate search for peace amidst the chaos. Then, it all takes a maximum strike when a surreal dream sequence pops her sister’s art to life; it’s a visualization of survivor’s guilt closer than ever before.
The director, Justin Baldoni, has a humble way of emphasizing the natural look as if it where a documentary—through techniques picked up from documentaries he directed in the past. Yet Baldoni does get carried away with the use of shaky-cam to the point where it obnoxiously disrupts calm scenes. There are also obtrusive elements that “pep” up the image, like graphics projecting text messages, that appear incredibly out of place.
At least those graphics don’t arise during the couple’s gentler exchanges of what they fear about what happens after death. However, even the emotional highs abuse the playing of unnecessary pop songs which fail to project Stella’s college-age girl mind, when an original score would have worked better. Still though, the love-birds’ existential crisis remains genuine, with the gross symptoms of Stella’s body causing fear of whether she will die right there.
There’s little reason to stay happy, so Stella cheers herself, along with the audience, up through a regularly updated vlog that explains everything, particularly why cystic fibrosis is such a thief. It helps Stella and Will bond after their instant connection in person, a source of joy that gets stronger as Will draws the apple of his eye by the window. It’s a Jack-Rose bond that fuels the romance and sets a strong contrast against the adults in control of their routines; focus wisely stays on the younger generation without its abuse on authority breaking a chain link from happiness.
Except one ultimate strike makes the experience less joyful: the characters get too much freedom to the extent of being unrealistic; they seriously can go to the gym or rooftop whenever without supervision. There needs to be an explanation to how this incompetent hospital operates, instead of some manipulative video footage starting and ending this film. Also, how on earth did Will get cologne despite literally having no money!? Too little focus on simple explanations make the writing resemble a sappy teen romance novel. While life may be too short for rules, it’s also too short for on-the-nose statements the couple says like, “God, you’re beautiful.”
As time goes by, you should find far stronger applications to livelihood than wasting time on Netflix, that being the love of another. Five Feet Apart attempts to restore your confidence, and won’t succeed in doing that for everyone, but its visualized importance of community can be just enough to lift today’s youth back up by the bootstraps.
If there is a specific movie you’d like to see graded, or if you are interested in guest blogging for my site, please email me at Trevor@TrevorsViewOnHollywood.com for your recommendations.
Have a great weekend, and happy watching!
Barker, Andrew. “Film Review: ‘Five Feet Apart’.” Digital image. Variety. WordPress, 14 Mar 2019. Web. <https://variety.com/2019/film/reviews/five-feet-apart-review-film-1203163052/>.
Five Feet Apart. Powster. Web. <https://www.fivefeetapartfilm.com/>.
“Five Feet Apart: The Science Behind the Serious Medical Condition in the New Film.” NewsOK. The Oklahoman, 11 Mar 2019. Web. <https://newsok.com/article/feed/9400165/five-feet-apart-the-science-behind-the-serious-medical-condition-in-the-new-film>.