We went to the late show on a Thursday at Chapel Hill’s most deluxe theater. Not crowded, so no concerns about sitting too close to other moviegoers. No need to mask up (just for a photo opp!). From the first moments of the film, Av and I were transported. A compelling cast of actors had us hooked. The familiar hospital world captivated us. The slow-burning tender-love-and-care under the most difficult of circumstances touched us. Look, we’re partial. But I’m sufficiently convinced Five Feet Apart is a tribute, not a transgression. Skip the book and see the movie for:
- A snapshot of the treatment burden in cystic fibrosis (cf). The movie treats us to instructive, technicolor scenes of how most people with cf must care for themselves everyday. The depiction reflects not only inpatient lives but home lives of so many real cf fighters. Av and I are familiar, if not intimate, with those carts of pill bottles, treatment schedules, nebulizers, airway clearance, calories galore, feeding tubes, coughing, spitting up globs of mucus, shortness of breath, research trials, long-term IVs, surgery, scars, oxygen. Frankly, I’m fascinated by the notion of cf care as a central feature in a major motion picture. While the movie is no documentary, it’s more technical than your average flick. And as we easily anticipated every twist of the neb cup and rhythm of the regimen, we also realized this stuff might not intrigue everyone. Case in point: a pair of girls sitting near us in the theater who seemed way more interested in the texts on their phones than in the medical minutia of cf.
- A glimpse of the emotional toll cf takes. The movie weaves throughout its story the central characters’ reckoning with their own mortality. Seems unreal, right, to think seventeen-year-olds must grapple with what it will be like to die; how little time they’ve got left; or how to cope with survivor’s guilt. Sadly, for so many cf fighters, this is a part of life. Add on more layers for cf’s thievery of freedoms, which most healthy people take for granted: the freedom to leave (the hospital), to love (the one you cannot be with), and to live as fully you desire. This film gives us a striking portrayal of the sadness and anxiousness behind such tremendous sacrifices. I was deeply moved by it; anyone with a pulse will leave the theater counting their blessings.
Av’s and my final recommendation: watch Five Feet Apart. Learn it, feel it, and join in the conversation.