I’ve been a Jane the Virgin fan for years now, so when I heard that Justin Baldoni (Rafael on the show), Emily Baldoni (Justin’s wife), and Haley Lu Richardson (the fiancée of Brett Dier, who plays Michael on the show) were all part of a new movie coming out this spring, I knew I had to see it. Unfortunately, time got away from me, and I never got a chance to see it in theaters. But when it came out on itunes, I decided that Five Feet Apart was worth the 14.99 payment even though I’m the cheapest person I know.
I was in a happy, stable state of mind when I sat down to watch the film, so I expected that while it may make me tear up a little, the film wouldn’t make me full on cry. Boy, was I wrong.
The film is about two teenagers with cystic fibrosis. Wait, you don’t know what exactly cystic fibrosis is? That’s okay, neither do a lot of people. I don’t really understand why it’s not as “well-known” as other diseases, but for whatever reason, it seems like many of the 30,000 CF patients in the U.S. alone suffer silently. CF is a genetic disease which limits lung function and causes buildups of mucus, and the average life expectancy for someone with CF is 37.5 years.
I was initially apprehensive that the movie would romanticize the disease and its patients, but it did just the opposite. From displaying all of Stella’s scars and allowing her to explain how insecure she was about them, to showing her and Will’s coughing during their AffloVest treatments, to portraying Will’s reliance on art to express his frustrations, the film showed that CF isn’t something to romanticize because often it brings about a lot of pain, stress, and hopelessness. However, the film proved that even with all of those struggles, happiness is achievable for CF patients. By showing how unmistakably happy Stella was with her sister, to emphasizing the couple’s joy as they ice-skated, Five Feet Apart highlighted the fact that not every day needs to be a dark one for these patients.
I won’t spoil the ending, but the love story between Stella and Will was really interesting. I didn’t love the fact that they went from hating each other to being crazy about each other rather quickly, but I feel like that definitely happens a lot when long novels are condensed into 2-hour films. Despite this minor flaw, I found their story to be really refreshing in the sense that they tried their best to approach their relationship with reason. I think that it’s easy for people to assume that teenagers will be impulsive with their health if it means they can have their storybook romance, but Stella and Will were a good example of thinking with both their heads and their hearts. Obviously, towards the end, their “five feet apart at all times” rule wavered, but for the most part, they were smart with their actions. I also loved that Will’s adoration for Stella motivated him to keep up his treatments and to finally let hope in. I’m a big believer that you shouldn’t look to someone else as motivation for bettering yourself, but in their case, it was what gave Will more time to live, and I’m sure that he would keep up his treatments even if he and Stella had called it quits midway into the movie. Their physical romance was also super notable. Obviously, they couldn’t satisfy the universal desire of all teenage couples- jumping each other’s bones. Still, they found ways to be physically intimate even in spite of the necessary distance between them. The scene where Stella uses the pool stick to play with her dress strap as Will watches on is a perfect example of that. The way I’m describing the scene sounds super perverted, but if you watch the movie, you’ll see how beautiful and romantic that moment is.
Side note- I want to praise the acting of Haley Lu Richardson. Obviously, the whole cast was amazing, but there’s something about her that’s so genuine and underrated. I’ve followed her for years now, and everything she puts on the internet has so much positivity and authenticity embedded in it. She put all those great characteristics into Stella’s personality whether or not the script instructed her to. She seems like one of the most uplifting people in Hollywood, and I’m really happy she got the exposure she deserves from this film.
Back to the film itself- Obviously, the idea of touch was central to the whole film. The whole reason they needed to stay five feet apart from each other was because physical touch has the power to kill them both. Yet, it’s also the thing they wanted the most. This dichotomy wasn’t just present in Stella and Will’s relationship, but also between Stella and Poe (her best friend). Whenever you’re upset, a hug from your best friend is often capable of alleviating a whole lot of pain, especially when that person knows exactly what you’re going through. Stella and Poe couldn’t do that though, and it reminded me just how important touch is in any kind of relationship. After watching the final scene, I ran and gave my mom the biggest hug. It was so special to hold her in that moment. It’s something we all take SO much for granted.
Here’s the thing, though. It’s easy to say that this movie totally changed my life, and that I’ll always be aware of how great I have it now, but that’s simply not true. In reality, I gave my mom so much attitude the morning after I watched this movie because I was sleep deprived, and even though we had a special moment just 12 hours before, I still let my first-world-problem mindset take over. While I appreciate the profound effect the movie had on me and the legacy it’ll leave in my mind forever, we’re all so preoccupied with our everyday obstacles that even the most inspiring movies won’t be able to change our perspective perpetually, and that’s okay. The movie did its job of inspiring and raising awareness perfectly, and I’m thankful that any time I think of the movie, all the wholesome perspective returns to me.
I also want to mention that I feel super guilty writing this post. I have absolutely no credibility to speak on behalf of CF patients or their struggles. I’m lucky enough that none of my loved ones have dealt with CF, so I don’t think I can truly say “the movie totally captured the realities of the disease,” when I haven’t even seen the realities firsthand. My only “expertise” is watching the Youtube videos of Claire Wineland, a CF patient and close friend of the movie’s director, Justin Baldoni. Baldoni dedicated the whole movie to her, and I spent hours watching her vlogs, so when I previously said that the film gives a realistic perspective on the disease, her life is what I’m comparing the film to. Still, every patient’s story is different, so I feel pretty guilty for praising the film for something I have no tangible connection to. I’m hoping I did CF patients justice in at least acknowledging that I can’t pretend like I know even half of what they go through.
Long story short, please do yourself a favor and watch this film. If you’ve been bottling in emotions for a while, this film will give you a damn good excuse to cry. If you want to be more aware of diseases that don’t get the attention they deserve, you’ll learn so much by watching this film. If you want a reminder of how lucky you are, you’ll feel that within the first five minutes. I promise, it’s not your standard chick-flick, and while I hate that people compare it to The Fault in Our Stars, I will say, in my opinion, Five Feet Apart was much better. Ok, I’ll shut up now so you can go search it up. Go watch!!