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‘Five Feet Apart’ forgoes storytelling in a quest for jerking tears

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I came to a conclusion while watching “Five Feet Apart.” I concluded that these tear-jerking teenage romance movies, like this one and “The Fault in our Stars,” are part of an alien plot. The goal: to harvest the tears of teenage girls, which fuel the wormhole projectors they use for interstellar travel. I mean, what other reason could there be for a story as nakedly manipulative as this one?

Ok, so that’s going several stories over the top, but the point remains. A boy-meets-girl tale between two teens with cystic fibrosis, “Five Feet” spends about seventy percent of its runtime on a cliched love story. The relationship between super-organized Stella (Haley Lu Richardson) and cynical-yet-good-hearted Will (Cole Sprouse), unfolds in a formulaic fashion, with a few interesting details (and clever ideas for dates) thrown in just for fun.

Then the third act hits, and “Five Feet” abandons telling its story in favor of piling plot point on top of plot point in an attempt to separate tears from tear ducts.

The root of this issue lies in the screenplay. Writers Mikki Daughtry and Tobias Iaconis have tried to cram a month’s worth of life into a plot that seems like it takes place over a couple of days and this ends up ruining the pacing. The early scenes take their time setting up the characters and their relationships. This is needed so we can get to know the characters.

But the ending of “Five Feet” feels like it plays out way too fast, with several major developments (which I can’t go into details about, because “no spoilers”) and this leaves the characters, and the audience, no time to react. It’s as if the writers were sitting around saying “Oh, yeah? If you think that’s sad, how about this?!” The movie tries to get you to cry without even giving you a chance to cry.

Then again, it’s not like the ending of “Five Feet” ruined a movie that was turning out to be a masterpiece. There’s really only two reasons to see this flick.

The first reason to see “Five Feet” is the acting. Richardson’s performance as Stella embodies graceful resilience. There is potential for great things in her future. She’s buttressed by solid work from Moises Arias as Poe and Kimberly Hebert Gregory as Nurse Barb. Sprouse is less engaging but he has cool hair. So that’s something.

The second, and best, reason to see “Five Feet” is the way it depicts kids battling serious chronic disease. This movie captures the emotional toll taken on kids who can’t experience many things normal, non-sick people take for granted. Kids battling for their lives deserve to see their travails reflected in a way that’s honest and respectful. Throughout the early part of this film, “Five Feet” pulls off.

The rest of “Five Feet Apart” is a cliched, hackneyed mess that’s even managed to upset cystic fibrosis advocates by playing fast and loose with the rules for treating the disease. If you absolutely have to see “Five Feet Apart,” save yourself a little cash and wait for it to hit Redbox or your favorite streaming service.

2 Indy Fedoras out of 5

MPAA Rating: PG-13

Thanks to Fat Cats in Rexburg for providing screenings for movie reviews on EastIdahoNews.com.

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