Haley Lu Richardson plays Stella and Cole Sprouse plays Will in the new medical-themed romantic melodrama Five Feet Apart. The two play cystic fibrosis patients in the same hospital who take very different approaches to their treatment. She’s fastidious about planning her life and following the rules she needs to live under while he chafes under those guidelines and is constantly pushing back against those around him.
The two meet and form a connection, but are bound by the rule they must remain six feet apart, the minimum distance to make sure they don’t transmit infection to the other person. That means they have to find new and innovative ways to be together.
Stella and Will are looking at each other while sitting on the floor of a hospital hallway, the oxygen tubes that help them breathe wrapped around their faces. They’re clearly closer than the title would imply they should be, but the designers were obviously going for intimacy over reality. There’s no tagline or anything, but you get that this is a romantic drama involving illness.
The second poster also doesn’t feature any copy that explains or expands on the story hints offered by the photo of the two characters standing at a distance from each other on a city street. It’s still obvious there are medical elements to the story since he’s wearing an oxygen circulator, but the setting tones that down in favor of something brighter and more upbeat.
The trailer introduces us to Stella, who has cystic fibrosis and whose life is dictated by the rules of managing her condition. When she meets Will she immediately senses he’s trouble, but they develop crushes on each other regardless. Through all this Stella finds that she still needs to have a life despite the realities of her world and gets him on board with the plan as well.
Another trailer a couple months later lightens up a bit on the medical aspects of the story in favor of focusing more on the romance between Stella and Will, one that’s problematic given their condition. Both angles on the story come together in the final trailer, selling it as a teen romance between two very sick kids who find that connection to be a big reason to keep on living.
Online and Social
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
There have been a few promoted social media posts around the release of the trailers and a few other online ads, but that’s about all I’ve come across.
Media and Publicity
The movie’s director and cast engaged in a surprise fan event tour, showing up at advance screenings to make them a special event and keep getting audiences excited.
Sprouse was the subject of a profile that talked about his career resurgence and the choices he’s made over the many years he’s been in the industry.
As release neared there were further profiles of Sprouse where he talked about about becoming a romantic leading man and what prompted him to take the role, including how there was a CF nurse on-set to make sure things were as medically accurate as possible. Richardson was also interviewed about how they strove to tell the story of the CF community and how she got involved with the project.
There’s been a lot of commentary about the movie and how it depicts people living with the illness. What’s on display in the marketing campaign isn’t that different from how other movies about romance in a time of chronic illness have been sold, though Sprouse and Richardson bring more charm than what’s on display in other films.
The campaign stands out for that link to find out more information about CF. Notably, that site calls out the fact that the story of the movie is just one depiction of the life of someone with the disease, not one that’s representative of the community as a whole. The background and education contained there is unfortunately unique on movie websites, but with something like this it’s essential and very useful.