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Five Feet Apart

Five Feet Apart

Young people with cystic fibrosis deserve a movie love story as much as the next teenager, but they might have hoped for a better effort than Five Feet Apart.

Set almost entirely in a hospital during a drug trial, the movie revolves around three “CF-ers,” as they call themselves: Stella (Haley Lu Richardson, Columbus), a video blogger who thinks she has OCD; Will (Cole Sprouse of TV’s Riverdale), a fatalistic artist; and Poe (Moises Arias, The Kings of Summer), Stella’s quippy gay best friend. Because even a CF girl deserves a quippy gay best friend.

You can see where this is going from the get-go, especially since Stella and Will dislike each other upon first meeting — a sure sign of impending romance in by-the-numbers screenplays like this one by first-timers Mikki Daughtry and Tobias Iaconis.

Clearly one of the filmmakers was inspired by a CF-er in his or her life (there’s a somber dedication in the credits). But the uninspired result is a movie that uses tidbits of knowledge about the deadly genetic disorder to gin up another flacid entry in the medically doomed teen genre. (Why this is a genre at all is a discussion for another day.)

Haley Lu Richardson and Cole Sprouse in  Five Feet Apart.

Haley Lu Richardson and Cole Sprouse in Five Feet Apart.

The primary CF factoid turned plot point is that people with cystic fibrosis need to stay at least six feet away from one another, to avoid sharing bacteria that could compromise their already over-burdened lungs. (Why the title is Five rather than Six Feet Apart is another plot point.) That places the movie neatly in the abstinence-loving footsteps of Twilight, since physical contact between the sweethearts is potentially deadly, in this case without the promise of any supernatural solution.

The movie is sluggishly directed by self-described “actor, director, and social entrepreneur” Justin Baldoni (a Jane the Virgin cast member), but the three lead performers all do admirable work to make these 20-something 17-year-olds as human and as sympathetic as possible.

Cole Sprouse in  Five Feet Apart.

Cole Sprouse in Five Feet Apart.

Their efforts aren’t wasted. As hackneyed as the screenplay is, the cast has scattered moments of real connection, with each other and the audience, so viewers with low expectations may find Five Feet Apart perfectly acceptable as a shameless weepie.

Those in the health care industry, however, may want to leap into the screen to shut down the fictional Saint Grace Hospital, which can’t keep track of its patients, breaks the rules of drug trials, appears to have no security staff and has had its premies replaced by animatronic dolls. But it does have good wifi.

Grade: C-minus. Rated PG-13. Now playing at AMC Classic River Hills, Biltmore Grande and Carolina Cinemark.

(Photo: CBS Films)

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