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The Ending Of Five Feet Apart Explained

In 2019, Justin Baldoni, who many will recognize as Rafael from "Jane the Virgin," came out with his first feature film as director called "Five Feet Apart." The romantic drama stars Haley Lu Richardson as Stella Grant and Cole Sprouse as William "Will" Newman, two young adults living with cystic fibrosis who develop a close relationship as they receive treatment at the same hospital. "Five Feet Apart" follows the pair as Stella pushes Will to follow the rules and stick to his treatment, while he teaches her how to enjoy life outside of being a patient. 

The title references the rule that Stella and Will need to always stay six feet apart in order to ensure that they don't get each other's infections or sicknesses, as it could greatly affect their vulnerable immune systems. Except the couple tends to rebel against the rules, gaining a foot and making it five feet apart instead. Unable to touch each other for fear of endangering them, Stella and Will continue on with constant physical space between them, as Stella begins to question whether she is really living a life or just going through the motions for treatment. 

Everything the two have ever talked about, like whether they can truly have a life with cystic fibrosis, is put to the test when Stella is given the opportunity to get the lung transplant that she has been waiting for. But at that moment, she hesitates, wondering if it's even worth it to only extend her life for a few years. So what does she decide? 

Where do Stella and Will end up?

At the end of the film, Stella and Will are out on an adventure when a woman comes into the hospital with a fatal injury. Her lungs happen to be a perfect match for Stella, but when they go to tell her, she isn't there. Stella receives the call delivering the news, but while she should be ecstatic, she feels defeated instead, not sure if it's even worth doing the transplant. Thankfully, Will is there, and he pushes Stella to do the lung transplant, insisting that she should use whatever years the surgery gives her to live a real life doing whatever she likes with whomever she likes. 

The surgery goes well, but then Will has bad news. Through a glass separating them, Will tells Stella that his drug trial isn't working, confessing his love for her and saying goodbye. With her new lungs, Will can't risk infecting Stella so he leaves, not wanting her to go through losing someone else she cares for. "Five Feet Apart" then jumps forward in time, when Claire appears in a YouTube video in which she tells everyone watching to cherish those they love and their ability to "touch" them, as clips show past experiences with Will and everyone important to her. 

The movie implies that Will dies, but Sprouse stated in an interview with Refinery29 that "We wanted to keep the ending open for interpretation. A lot of people who saw the movie assume that he lived." So ultimately, it's up to the audience to decide what they think really happens with Sprouse's character, even if he doesn't end up with Stella. 

There were many alternate endings filmed

While the official cut of "Five Feet Apart" ends with Stella's video message, Baldoni actually filmed quite a few endings, trying them out with test audiences to see what worked best. In fact, one of the more positive alternative endings was released on the official social media of "Five Feet Apart." The different ending shows Stella with her family and friends a while after her lung transplant. Sitting outside, she looks to the side and sees Will, walking up to him as her voiceover shares the same message she does in the original ending video. The two simply stare at each other and smile, leaving audiences to wonder if they then continue their romance or go their separate ways. 

In an interview with Bustle, Sprouse revealed that they actually filmed three or four endings to choose from, and it was probably the part of the film that the creators spent the most time on, really considering what they wanted the ending to say. The director explained to the publication why he ended up choosing the ending with Stella's video message, saying that "it's very rare that your lead character can look at you and kind of deliver the ending," telling "us how she felt, and [giving] us a personal lesson based on her journey." With how the social media and YouTube play into the story, it gave Baldoni the perfect opportunity to deliver a final message in a direct yet fitting way.

What happens in the book version of Five Feet Apart?

With "Five Feet Apart," the movie does have a book version of the story, but it is unique in that the movie and book were made simultaneously by the same people. Despite that, there are a few key differences in the two versions of Stella and Will's story, the biggest of which is the ending. In the movie, audiences can decide for themselves whether or not Will dies or the two see each other again, but in the book, there's a much more hopeful ending to the main characters' story. 

The book still ends with Stella's YouTube video, but instead of seeing it as part of the audience, the book has Will watching it himself. He is sitting at the airport eight months after his break up with Stella, watching the video as he waits for his friend Jason. The two men are going on a trip to Rio, with Will traveling and seeing the world as he always dreamed of doing. Coincidentally, Stella happens to be there as well, taking a trip to Rome with her friends Mya and Camila. 

Stella and Will see each other and stand six feet apart, then five, leaving it open to interpretation as to whether or not this means they rekindle their romance.