‘Five Feet Apart’ has ties to Pittsburgh through book adaptation | TribLIVE.com
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Shirley McMarlin

“Five Feet Apart,” in wide release on March 15, joins “The Fault in Our Stars” in the pantheon of Pittsburgh-related movies about ill-fated teen lovers.

While the ‘Burgh stood in for Indianapolis in “Fault,” about the relationship between two young cancer patients, “Five Feet” has real Pittsburgh roots.

The screenplay for the tear-inducing tale of two teens with cystic fibrosis was adapted into a Young Adult novel of the same name by University of Pittsburgh graduate Rachael Lippincott.

Born in Philadelphia and raised in Bucks County, Lippincott now lives in Pittsburgh, where she’s a partner in the food truck, Lone Wolf Grill.

Her book debuted on the Dec. 9, 2018, New York Times bestseller list after its first week on sale.

She will discuss her work at 7 p.m. March 27 at Mystery Lovers Bookshop, 514 Allegheny River Boulevard, Oakmont.

Lippincott will be joined by Pittsburgh-based author Rebecca Drake, whose novel “The Dead Place” was an Independent Mystery Booksellers Association best-seller. Drake’s short story “Loaded” was featured in the “Pittsburgh Noir” mystery/crime anthology.

A question-and-answer session and book-signing will follow the program.

Information on the program is available at 412-828-4877 or mysterylovers.com.

“Lippincott writes with honesty and about relationships with friends, parents and siblings,” says a review of the book on teenreads.com. “An exploration of grief, friendship and love defying all odds, ‘Five Feet Apart’ is a tear-jerking romance perfect for teenagers who loved ‘The Fault in Our Stars.’”

“Set in a hospital, the romantic melodrama centers on the unrequited romance between two 17-year-old cystic fibrosis patients, played by the 26-year-old (Cole) Sprouse … and Haley Lu Richardson, who, at 24, is one of the best and most appealing actresses of her generation,” says Washington Post film writer Michael O’Sullivan.

“Richardson may be the best thing” about the movie, O’Sullivan says. “Richardson plays Stella, a girl who falls in love with a boy she literally cannot touch, thanks to what is known as the ‘six-foot rule,’ a real medical standard that recommends that CF patients give each other a wide berth and wear face masks to avoid cross-infection. Stella is in the hospital awaiting a lung transplant, and down the hall is Will (Sprouse), another CF patient participating in the clinical trial of an experimental treatment for a rare but life-threatening bacterial infection. If she happens to catch it, that will rule out Stella’s transplant.

“Stella is an obsessive-compulsive rule-follower … and Will wears his morbid cynicism (almost literally) on his sleeve. His face mask, naturally, features a death’s head grimace,” O’Sullivan writes.

“Yes, they’re opposites, but much of ‘Five Feet Apart’ focuses on mutual rapprochement: Stella tries to get Will to rediscover hope — ‘It’s just life,’ he cracks, ‘it’ll be over before you know it’ — while he tries to get her to loosen up and live a little. (The film’s title refers to Stella’s ever-so-slight bending of the rules),” says O’Sullivan, who gives the PG-13 rated flick two out of four stars.

Tribune News Service film writer Katie Walsh sees echoes of “Romeo and Juliet” in the film, with its “pair of young, doomed, star-crossed lovers carrying on a forbidden romance.”

“‘Five Feet Apart’ feels like a real evolution in the sick teen movie genre, because it’s actually a great movie that just happens to be about sick teens, and it doesn’t condescend to or try to cheer up anyone. There are no bucket lists — just an authentic portrait that feels real and lived-in,” Walsh says, awarding the movie three of four stars.

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