Five Feet Apart Parent Guide
The yearning gaze of the young lovers permeates the film and the theater like teenage pheromones.
Parent Movie Review
Seventeen-year-old Stella (Haley Lu Richardson) is doing everything she possibly can to control her cystic fibrosis (CF), a genetic disease which is destroying her lungs and will eventually kill her. She obsessively follows to her drug regimen and has even designed an app to help others manage chronic illnesses. She conscientiously remains six feet apart from friend and fellow hospital patient, Poe (Moises Arias), lest the two inadvertently share their respiratory tract bacteria and worsen their diseases. Then Stella meets Will (Cole Sprouse), the handsome bad boy on the CF ward. Their initial antagonism lasts just long enough to add some spark to the relationship before the two fall for each other. But Will isn’t just another CF patient: he’s been infected by a bacteria known as B. cepacia, which has removed him from the lung transplant waiting list. Getting close to Will could not only make Stella sicker; it could permanently disqualify her from the lung transplant she so desperately needs.
Given this premise, I expected Five Feet Apart to be a depressing movie. That it isn’t is due to the character of Stella, a young woman of such courage, resilience, humor, and grace that she would light up any film. She’s no plaster saint either – Stella struggles with fear, grief, anger, rebellion, and loss, but her unfailing hopefulness not only buoys her up, it also changes Will. That’s not to say the movie isn’t sad. It ticks all the boxes in the “teen weepy” genre and the screening I attended was full of audible sobbing.
Since Five Feet Apart is a movie about an adolescent relationship, parents will not be surprised that sex enters the equation. Because the characters can’t get closer than six feet from each other (or five, as Stella decrees in a rebellious moment), there is no actual sex. But there is plenty of non-explicit talk about sex (straight and gay) and there is a scene where Stella and Will strip down to their underwear and stare yearningly at each other. Their gaze – intense and filled with desire – permeates the film and the movie theater like teenage pheromones. Although there is no sex in the film, this is a movie that will certainly encourage lots of affection between dating couples afterwards.
Aside from the sexual content, parents will want to be aware of the 21 profanities in the movie and a scene where teens drink champagne to celebrate an 18th birthday. The bigger issue for some viewers will be the medical scenes. Anyone who is easily unnerved by hospitals or medical procedures should give this film a miss. We see kids taking medication, patients coughing (even coughing up mucus), and operating rooms where blood is visible. It is worth noting that not all the medical footage is strictly accurate – people rarely come out of a general anaesthetic as lucid and attractive as they do in this film.
The upside to the medical issue at the core of this film is that it encourages discussion of serious topics, such as Stella and Will’s exploration of the meaning of death. Is death merely a prelude to a new life, as Stella insists? Or is it just a big sleep as Will postulates? And, more than most teen films, Five Feet Apart asks the question of what it really means to love, to put the needs of another ahead of your own. The answer might break your heart, but it could also be a valuable lesson for teen audiences.Directed by Justin Baldoni. Starring Haley Lu Richardson, Cole Sprouse, Claire Forlani. Running time: 116 minutes. Theatrical release March 15, 2019. Updated March 14, 2019
Watch the trailer for Five Feet Apart
Five Feet Apart
Rating & Content Info
Why is Five Feet Apart rated PG-13? Five Feet Apart is rated PG-13 by the MPAA for thematic elements, language and suggestive material
Violence: A main character gets angry and throws things around her hospital room. A main character pretends to jump off a roof as a joke.
Sexual Content: A young woman tells her friends to “use protection”. There is a non-detailed discussion about a couple having sex in someone’s hospital room. Two characters discuss whether one of them likes sex. A gay character discusses his past relationships without graphic detail. A gay character jokes about not liking white boys. A young woman is seen in her bra and underwear as she washes her hands in the bathroom. A main character makes a crude comment about having sex in the Vatican. A young woman runs a pool cue over her breast in front of the young man who wants to touch her. A young woman and young man strip down to their underclothes and stare longingly at each other. A couple talks about having sex, without any graphic detail. Characters talk about a girl’s breasts.
Profanity: There are 21 instances of profanity or coarse language, including two sexual expletives (and possibly a muffled third), one sexual hand gesture, six scatological curses, two crude anatomical words, six terms of deity, and other assorted swear words or vulgar expressions.
Alcohol / Drug Use: Teens are frequently seen appropriately taking lots of prescription medications. At an eighteenth birthday party, the guests, not all of whom are 18 years old, drink champagne. A young woman is shown coming out of a general anaesthetic and saying things she wouldn’t normally say.
Other There is a lot of graphic medical footage in the film. An infected gastric tube is shown. A main character is shown coughing and spitting up mucus. A character jokes about a suppository. A young woman undergoes two dangerous surgeries. Some blood is seen. A main character falls through the ice on a frozen lake. Characters talk about death. A secondary character dies and the death of another character is discussed. Lungs are seen prior to a transplant surgery.
Page last updated March 14, 2019
Five Feet Apart Parents' Guide
Stella has been waiting for years for a lung transplant. Have you ever thought about being an organ donor? What are the requirements for organ donation where you live? Have you discussed your wishes with your family?
Are you interested in donating money to help fund research into cystic fibrosis?
Stella and Will have different opinions on what happens after death. Stella believes that death is the gateway to another kind of life. Will thinks death is the end. What do you believe? Why? Have you ever had a discussion with someone whose opinions differ from yours? Did you learn anything from them?
Loved this movie? Try these books…
Five Feet Apart, which was a bestseller on the New York Times list, was written by Rachael Lippincott and Mikki Daughtry and is the story on which this film was based.
John Green’s novel, The Fault in Our Stars, tells the story of Hazel and Augustus, both of whom are fighting battles with cancer. The novel contains a brief episode of adolescent sexual activity. Another story focused on a relationship between two somewhat younger cancer patients is Zac & Mia by A.J. Betts.
Related home video titles:
Mandy Moore stars as a young woman with a hidden illness in A Walk to Remember. When the local bad boy, Landon, winds up acting with her in the school play, it changes his life.
Midnight Sun tells the story of Katie, a young woman with an illness that makes exposure to sunlight lethal. When she falls in love with Charlie, the two can only be together after dark. But Charlie doesn’t know Katie’s secret.
In Everything, Everything, Maddy is trapped at home by an immune disorder that prevents her body from fighting off any type of infection. But then she sees Olly through her window, and the two fall in love. But will they be willing to love each other at a distance?
The Space Between Us features Gardner, a young man who was born on Mars to an astronaut who had not known she was pregnant. Raised on the red planet, Gardner’s bones and organs will never be able to withstand the pull of earth’s gravity. But then he meets Tulsa online and is convinced he needs to travel to earth to see her.