*WARNING: LOTS of spoilers*
Good morning, friends! As you can probably tell from the title, today I am going to be writing about a movie I saw last night, Five Feet Apart. Maybe you’ve heard of it, maybe you’ve seen it, maybe you could care less about it; regardless, Five Feet Apart is about two teenagers living in a hospital with cystic fibrosis and the agonizing routine, boundaries, and discipline they must practice to stay alive. Another kicker: since they both have cystic fibrosis, they can’t get within six feet of each other without spreading harmful bacteria. AKA no making out with the cute boy down the hall (which is a struggle for Stella, the main character, who is crushing hard on the angsty boy next door, but also for us, who want to live vicariously through her romance with Cole Sprouse).
Going into the theater, I was expecting it to be a cliché romance movie about two star-crossed lovers who both have a chronic illness (much like A Fault in our Stars). My reasoning for wanting to see this movie had little to do with the plot or storyline, and more to do with
1. Cole Sprouse
2. Justin Baldoni directing (AKA Rafael from Jane the Virgin) and a little bit because of
3. Haley Lu Richardson (AKA engaged to Michael from Jane the Virgin– in case you can’t tell, I really love Jane the Virgin).
All that being said, I wasn’t expecting to get too carried away with the story, and was imagining it to just be another movie night with my gal pals; it turned into much more than that.
The movie opens with 17-year-old Stella hanging out with her friends in her room, helping them choose bathing suits for their spring break trip. They laugh and enjoy each other’s company, until one of the friends mentions how sad she is that Stella can’t go because Stella is the one who planned the trip in the first place. Stella puts on a brave face (like she does many times throughout the film), and tells them to have a great time. Her friends leave and we realize that her room is actually in a hospital.
The audience quickly falls in love with Stella’s quirky, OCD, kind, joyful personality as she vlogs about her experience with cystic fibrosis.
She befriends a boy down the hall who doesn’t have as positive of an outlook as Stella, and after many arguments and consideration, he agrees to let her organize his treatments. The relationship is sparked through many hours confiding in each other for their similar treatments.
Okay so instead of recapping literally every detail of the movie (like I used to do to my mom after every Gossip Girl episode), I’m just going to summarize the scenes that moved me the most.
Taking a Foot Back
A little into the film, once feelings have been distinguished between Stella and Will (Cole Sprouse), Stella takes to her Youtube channel to vent about how hard it is to be in a relationship with another cystic fibrosis patient, and always having to stand six feet apart from them. As she passionately shares about how much cystic fibrosis has taken away from her, she declares that it’s HER turn to be the thief. She’s taking control of her disease and her life, and with that, is taking a foot back. 5 feet apart.
She then runs to Will’s room with a pool stick in her hand (which is exactly 5 feet, I have no idea where she got it, it was conveniently in her room, but I went along), bangs on his door, and declares that she’s taking the foot back, and asks if he’s in. He says through a smirk, “I’m so in.”
This scene was one of the first to move me, mostly because of the passion Haley Lu Richardson gives the character (which is actually my main reason for being moved in most of these scenes). The way she pours her heart out to her camera about being trapped in her disease is so raw, your heart breaks for her. The fact that she has to worry about the proximity she gets to a boy she likes because it could kill her is such a heavy topic, and she captures the weight of the situation perfectly in this monologue.
The First Date
After the climax of Stella claiming a foot of space back, the two teenagers meet up for their first official date. Though I loved watching Stella get ready, trying every outfit on in her suitcase and styling her hair, my favorite part about this scene is when the two are sitting next to each other at the pool.
What had been an upbeat, playful date full of laughs and flirting, Stella and Will start to get serious while sitting at the pool. Stella admits that she has never had sex with anyone, because she has always been insecure about her scares and tubes. She tells Will that nothing about her body is sexy after what her treatments have left. He looks at her with a deep admiration and longing, and tells her that he thinks everything about her is sexy.
He continues to tell her how much he wants to touch her, which brings the heaviness of the situation back. Stella then lifts the pool stick up to her body and gently touches it to her arm, then her shoulder, then her down her torso to her upper thigh. There is so much passion and longing and intimacy in this scene without any physical touch. Will gazes in Stella’s direction as she stands up, and begins to underdress herself. She slips her dress off, letting it fall to the floor, revealing all of her scars. Will stands up, facing Stella, and begins to undress. He unbuttons his shirt, then his pants, keeping his gaze fixed on her. The two evaluate the other’s scarred bodies with a longing for what can never happen.
What I loved about this scene is the way they captured the emotion and portrayed an extreme amount of intimacy without the characters touching. In this day and age, pretty much every romance film has a physical sex scene, and it’s fairly easy to show intimacy between characters when they have no physical boundaries. In this film, with their condition and circumstances, the actors, director, and writers needed to craft the scene in a way that can show those emotions in a way other than physical touch, and I believe they did it spectacularly.
Will’s Birthday Party
On Will’s 18th birthday, Stella plans and throws a surprise party in the hospital cafeteria with all of Will’s friends. Their friend, Poe (AKA Rico from Hannah Montana), prepares a lovely dinner for them all, and they spend hours dining and laughing and enjoying each other’s company. This scene was important for my (and any viewer’s) journey through the film because for a second, you forget their circumstances. You think they are regular teenagers enjoying life, which was positioned strategically in the movie right before tragedy struck.
The morning after the party, the hospital nurses who we have grown to love throughout the movie (one of them being Justin Baldoni’s gorgeous wife) receive an alert from Poe’s room. Since this is a normal action for him to do, she tries to talk to him through his bedroom speaker. He doesn’t respond, so she casually walks over to his room, assuming that he probably pushed the call button by accident. She knocks on his door, and when he doesn’t answer, she opens the door to find Poe laying on the floor, lifeless.
The nurses jump into action, trying to bring him back to life. Stella and Will hear the commotion from their rooms and run over to see what is happening. Stella looks into his room and spots Poe laying on the floor, and she starts to sob. The nurses yell to get her out of the way as they slam the door in her face. Stella runs back to her room, trying to process what just happened. Will runs after her, trying to comfort her.
“He was my best friend,” she screams, “and I never got to hug him. I never gave my best friend a f*cking hug.” Tears stream down her face as she grips her hair. She continues to yell about everything she has lost in her life and how she is going to lose everything.
Damn. Her performance in this scene literally brought me to tears. My heart absolutely broke for her, and I felt as though I had just lost my best friend, too.
A couple hours after Stella calms down a little bit after the trauma, she asks Will if he will take her to “see the lights”. (BACKSTORY: Stella’s older sister and her used to look out of her hospital window and see the building lights in the distant shimmering like stars, and make wishes on them. She had never left the hospital to explore where the lights came from, so she wanted to do that now.)
While hesitant to walk 2 miles in the freezing cold in the middle of the night with cystic fibrosis, Will finally agrees to take Stella. They hike about halfway until they need to stop to rest. They find a bench just over a bridge and sit to catch their breaths. Stella then wonders out onto the frozen lake to skate around. Will panics at first and tells her to stop, but then after some convincing, he joins her out on the lake. The two skate around, laughing and gliding, slipping on the ice. While they are enjoying themselves on the ice, Stella gets multiple texts from her nurse, telling her a pair of lungs just became available for her (what she has been waiting for). Stella ignores the text, focusing on the time spent with Will.
They make their way off the ice and sit on the bridge, talking about life (like they usually do), when Will gets a text from his nurse. Stella tells him not to read it, but he does, and sees that they have lungs for Stella. He starts to freak out and tell her they need to get back to the hospital. She fights him, saying she doesn’t want new lungs, that she just wants to die— all the while, Stella lost her balance on the bridge and fell onto the ice. Will screams over the bridge but sees Stella laying on her back, laughing.
He walks over the bridge down to the lake to get her, but when he gets down, she is under the ice. He rushes out to save her, reaching his arm under the freezing water, trying to grab onto her. She floats as she loses consciousness, and after what seems like an eternity, he grabs hold of her, lifting her up out of the water. She lays on the ice, unconscious, as Will screams for help. He frantically texts his nurse, and without putting much thought into it, starts to give her mouth-to-mouth. He struggles as he tries to build up enough strength to give her all the oxygen he has left in his lungs. After 3 or 4 rounds of desperate CPR, Will passes out next to her, his lungs defeated.
Just as we thought they both were going to die on that lake, Stella gasps for air.
Obviously this scene is really dramatic, but what I admire about it is that, the entire film, the two are avoiding each other because touching could kill them. But, when it came down to it, his touch and his breath actually saved her life.
So, to bring you up to speed, after the dramatic scene on the lake, the two are rushed back to the hospital, where Stella is being prepped for surgery to get her new lungs. She fights the nurses, screaming she doesn’t want to get the lungs and that she only wants Will (which like, doesn’t make sense in my opinion, just get the lungs and then hang out later). They wheel Will’s bed next to hers (apparently he survived that scene even though it really looked like he died), and she calls out to him. He very calmly looks at her and tells her that she needs to get the lungs, for him. She then agrees, and is wheeled into surgery.
After Will makes a remarkable recovery, he asks the nurses, his mom, and Stella’s mom to help him with a surprise for Stella. They all agree, and we see him setting something up.
Time passes and Stella is waking up from her anesthesia, and her parents are called into the room. She bats her eyes open, still with a tube down her throat, as her parents comfort her and tell her that the surgery went well. The nurse comes in and then tells her that they have something to show her. They lower the lights, and as they do, the outside of her widow lights up with a million string lights. She looks taken back as she stares, and her mom places her cell phone in her lap. Will starts to talk, sharing all of the wonderful things Stella has been for him these past couple months, and how grateful he is for the time spent with her.
He then proceeds to break up with her, stating that it is “too dangerous” to be around her anymore. Stella, who has literally just had lung surgery and minutes before woke up from anesthesia, still with a giant tube in her throat, can’t say anything back to him. She just sobs, looking at him through the window; it’s heartbreaking. Will tells her to please look away because it is impossible to walk away with her looking. After moments of both of them starring at each other sobbing, she closes her eyes, and he leaves.
Damn. (again) I was naturally moved to tears during this scene, not because of Will’s gesture, but because of Haley Lu’s phenomenal acting. Like, girlie can ACT.
Will, on the other hand, is kind of an asshole for dumping his girlfriend minutes after she wakes up from surgery. Like at least give it a day? I get that you want to protect her from your disease, but still, girlfriend has been through a lot, and probably didn’t need to get dumped after her lung surgery.
WELL, now that I have summed up pretty much the entire movie (saving you $12 if you didn’t want to see it in theaters), those are some of the scenes that made the movie deeply moving for myself. After we left the theatre, driving home with my two best friends, I couldn’t help but feel so fortunate to be living the life I do. I wanted to hug them extra tight. I laid in bed that night thinking about what it must be like to be a teenager who is controlled by a disease, who doesn’t get to go out with her friends, who has to sit in her hospital room and watch videos of life happening around her, without her. I tend to live in a bubble, not thinking much about how other people are living differently than me, and that can really tarnish my gratitude. This film broke my heart for all the right reasons, and gave me a fresh perspective of the life I’m living.
For that, I believe this film was a success.