Filmmakers can’t seem to stop making movies about ill-fated couples. Literally ill in the case of our leads in the upcoming hospital romance Five Feet Apart.  

Audiences ain’t masochists. But we keep returning to the cinemas to vicariously experience the agony of lovebirds torn apart by a fatal disease. In other words, a relationship with a looming expiration date. You’re probably familiar with the story: either one or both of the leads suffer from a terrible affliction. Sparks fly in the sanitised environment created at home or at the hospital. They throw caution to the wind, and love like there is no tomorrow. Cue the waterworks. 

We rate the heartbreak factor of five the saddest romance flicks where couples love till death do them part. In ascending order of recommended tissue consumption*:

1. The Time Traveller’s Wife (2009)

Henry DeTamble (Eric Bana) was born with a genetic disorder that causes him to randomly hop through time. At age 28, Henry first meets a 20-year-old art student Clare Abshire (Rachel McAdams). But Clare already knows Henry is her soulmate. Since she was six, Henry has been popping up in her life sporadically. Two years ago, an older Henry had already kissed an 18-year-old Clare.

The pair eventually find the time to marry. Although Henry disappears just before the wedding ceremony, luckily an older Henry appears in time to take the place of his younger self. Having a child was an issue. Clare suffered multiple miscarriages as the foetus would time travel out of her womb.

Talk about taking a long-distance relationship to the next level.  Imagine the anxiety of having a spouse disappear on you anytime. Not to mention the heartache when you’d feel when pining for his return.

You’ll be too distracted to cry. The chronological confusion will have you scratching your head as you try to figure out the sequence of events.


2. Love And Other Drugs (2010)

Jamie Randall (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Maggie Murdock (Anne Hathaway) are in a no-strings-attached relationship. The reasons for the pair’s commitment issues could not be more different.

Pharmaceutical salesman Jamie is used to charming a string of women into bed. In other words, he is a player. Fiesty artist Maggie is a 20-something with early onset of Parkinson’s disease. The degenerative disease inflicts her with hand tremors, and will slowly diminish her ability to move. As a result, she becomes cynical about true love. Who would want to marry a chronically ill person who eventually won’t be able to dress herself?

But lust soon turns into love. The sex buddies have to come to terms with their insecurities as they try to make the relationship work.

Anne Hathaway haters would not be pleased. No one dies in the movie. Not every film about illness is a tragedy. But tissue might still be needed for those drool-worthy steamy, love-making scenes.


3. Five Feet Apart (2019)

Teenagers can be tad dramatic. But our female lead Stella isn’t being hyperbolic when she declares in the trailer, “I never understood the importance of touch until I couldn’t have it.”

Will Newman (Cole Sprouse) and Stella Grant (Haley Lu Richardson) are risking their lives if they ever come into close contact. They suffer from cystic fibrosis (CF), a genetic disorder which causes persistent lung infection and difficulty in breathing. In order to avoid cross infection, CF-ers are advised to stay six feet apart at all times. There is no known cure and the life expectancy of a patient is about 40 years.

Despite the gravity of the situation, the movie plays out like a high school romance set in a hospital. They don’t click, at first.  She is the model student whom nurses can count on to take her medication on time.  He is the defiant student with little regard for doctor’s orders. When the opposing characters meet, there’s loads of sarcastic bickering and laughs. The real fun begins when the model student becomes a rule breaker for the sake of love. She carries around a five-foot pole in order to “hold hands” with him.  You’d have to watch the movie to find out why they shaved the recommended distance by one foot.

Your tear ducts will likely be activated when a death occurs — we won’t say who. Bring a pack of tissues to share with a friend.


4. Me Before You (2016)

Will Traynor (Sam Claflin) is the handsome British aristocrat locked up in a castle by circumstance and choice. The former jet-setting banker is paralysed after a motorcycle accident and has lost all will to live. He plans to commit assisted suicide in six months — the time promised to his parents for him to ponder over his decision.

In hopes of changing Will’s mind, his mother hires Lou Clark (Emilia Clarke), a happy-go-lucky caretaker, to bring cheer to her son.

Gender stereotypes are flipped in the movie: Will is the prince in need of rescuing from his own castle, and Lou is his heroine.

She plans an action-packed itinerary to show Will that life is worth living. They dress up to the nines to attend a classical concert and pack their bags for a whirlwind trip to Mauritius. Throw in a heartfelt profession of love, and an intimate dance scene involving him twirling on the floor in his wheelchair — you’d think you’re watching a live-action Disney remake.

The plot develops like a dreamy fairytale, leaving you feeling all warm and fuzzy. You brazenly wish for a happily-ever-after ending. How dare you! The heartache is even more acute when your hopes are raised, and then shattered. You’ll need an entire pack of tissues for yourself.

5. The Fault In Our Stars (2014)

Teenager Hazel Grace Lancaster (Shailene Woodley) leads a dreary existence battling metastatic thyroid cancer. She’s resigned to her fate: frequent hospital visits and channel surfing on the couch at home. Then, there’s the dreaded cancer support group, which she attends to make her parents happy. There, she meets the love of her life, Augustus Waters (Ansel Elgort). He’s witty, empathetic and a survivor of osteosarcoma, an aggressive bone cancer. The young lovers embark on a whirlwind adventure to Amsterdam to seek answers from Peter Van Houten, the reclusive author of Hazel’s favourite novel.

There are two ways to tell a sad story about cancer victims: you either sugarcoat it or you don’t. Guess which one The Fault In Our Stars is?

This is no Instagram filtered plot and harsh realities are depicted as is. Not everyone is kind. The teens’ idol Van Houten turns out to be a rude jerk. He lambasts the young fans for riding on cancer privilege and throws them out of his house, even though they were invited.

Complex parent-child dynamics are made even more complicated in this scenario. Your heart goes out to the sacrificing mother, who tends to her daughter’s mental and physical well-being.  As a guilt-ridden Hazel puts it, “What’s worse than having cancer, is having a kid with cancer.”

The ultimate tearjerker scene unfolds at a petrol station. The usually optimistic Augustus is doubled over the wheel of his car, begging Hazel not to call the ambulance even though he is in visceral pain. You’re reminded that everyone has their moments of weakness.

The string of reality checks will have you cursing at fate and crying on cue. Prep a box of Kleenex.

There’s nothing like a good cry to release the pent up stress of daily life. The Fault In Our Stars can be a real sob fest, which is great if you can don shades to hide your bloodshot eyes the day after viewing.

But if you need to face the world, we’d recommend Five Feet Apart.  The melodramatic rom-com is a good mix of tearjerker moments and lighthearted puppy love. Super trooper Stella’s hopefulness is so infectious that the movie is perfect viewing after a bad day at work. Or any day of the week. Who can say no to a movie which melts your heart and makes it sing?

Go catch Five Feet Apart out in theatres on March 21.

*Actual tissue consumption will vary from individual to individual.

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