Boy meets Girl – a very usual story, we’ve been there before and seen over and over again. But Five Feet Apart is different and gives us a Boy meets Girl story on a different level. Stella and Will are both fighting an ongoing battle with cystic fibrosis. This disease forces these two young people to stay a certain distance away from each other. Despite all this, they develop a relationship.
Director Justin Baldoni, best known for his role in the Jane the Virgin series, brings together Cole Sprouse as Will and Hayley Lu Richardson as Stella to tell the story of this romantic drama. But as Entertainment Weekly reported, Richardson was initially hesitant to take on the role of Stella. The actress thought that teenage love stories tend to not be grounded enough, but her director was the one to change her mind.
“I ended up having this big talk with Justin and he really opened my eyes to the opportunity of making the characters as human as possible,” recalls Richardson. “And even though there’s this kind of magical love story and these extreme odds, having the chance to come in as an actor and make the character and the dialogue grounded and real within that big magical world is actually really interesting to me and something that I hadn’t really gotten to do before.”
While making the movie she felt a responsibility to do research on a medical and emotional level. Since both main characters are cystic fibrosis patients, the disease has a huge impact on the story, so for Richardson, research was very important to represent these characters accurately.
“I felt like I had to do justice to this whole group of people who have CF, like 30,000 people in America,” she explained. “It’s something that a lot of people struggle with and know people that struggle with, but it’s not some mainstream thing that everyone is aware of. So there was a responsibility to do it right and do my research and be as medically accurate and as emotionally accurate with what these people go through, and be someone that that CF community can look at onscreen and really relate to and say, ‘Wow, I was represented in a way that I recognize and can be proud of.’ And once I started getting into it and learning about CF and meeting people with CF, it opened my eyes to how real it all was. It ended up just being a really inspiring thing to be a part of.”
It also impacts on the relationship of Stella and Will which makes it so different from other teenage love stories. As Richardson says their relationship still has the typical intimacy, vulnerability, awkwardness and attraction but since they always have to keep distance between each other, they don’t have the chance to kiss, make out or have sex for the first time. It’s the same feeling most of young people experience when they fall in love for the first time, but so different because they can’t even hold hands to express what they feel for each other.
Five Feet Apart is now playing at cinemas.