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It’s been nearly 50 years since Love Story showed that people will pay good money to watch pretty youngsters dying slowly, and five since The Fault in Our Stars revived this morbid subgenre with notable commercial success. Justin Baldoni’s middling derivative courts viewer sympathies with a somewhat novel conceit, taking place almost exclusively within the hospital where perky vlogger and cystic fibrosis patient Stella (Haley Lu Richardson) has been confined as part of a drug trial. Dragging her oxygen line around intensive care, she crosses paths with a fellow trialist, floppy-haired hunk Will (Cole Sprouse), and a wicked new twist is added to an old meet-cute: they can’t get too close, lest they exchange potentially lethal lungfuls of bacteria. Here are two kids who could kill with a kiss.
It’s a weird hook, granted, dependent on the leads hawking up more phlegm than has ever been set before us in the course of an aspirant date movie. Putting the onus on characters who’ve been prescribed bedrest leaves these two hours a touch shuffling dramatically: you sense Baldoni killing a lot of time before he can send on the Reaper for his contracted cameo. Regular musical montages find someone or other moping in the cafeteria while something like the Fray tinkles on the soundtrack; Stella schools her devil-may-care beau via YouTube in the correct application of latex gloves. Love letters are secreted in balloons Will has to pop, filling the hospital corridors with alarming bangs. (The issue of who’s paying for this extended sleepover is, of course, never addressed.)
Trading shamelessly on any weakness for medical soap, Baldoni returns the lamentably underemployed Parminder Nagra to the doctor’s scrubs she once wore on ER, while allowing Richardson – whose smart choices were better showcased in Columbus – to lend certain moments an apple-cheeked vivacity. Yet she surely realises, as Fault’s Shailene Woodley did before her, that this is the kind of marshmallow martyrdom that has to be briskly worked through before they let you at the grownup scripts. The airlessness of the single setting – a controlled environment allowing teens to approach mortality from safe distance – is only dispelled late on, with some daffily fateful business atop a frozen lake: in this case, love means pushing your luck.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Five Feet Apart review – sickly teen romance mopes to morbid conclusion | Film