Directed by Justin Baldoni, Five Feet Apart was released in 2019 as an American romantic drama with a net profit of more than 45 million Dollars. The film itself is dedicated to Claire Wineland, a YouTuber with cystic fibrosis who passed away in September 2018. This film is a novel adaptation by Mikki Daughtry and Tobias Laconis. Five Feet Apart has also been nominated for several film awards. One of those nominations is a winner in the People’s Choice Award for the Drama Movie Star of the Year, USA 2019. Starring Haley Lu Richardson as Stella, this story tells us about the daily life of a girl with cystic fibrosis in a hospital. One thing I want to mention regarding this film is its mixed message. Later, I will get to say those aspects. For now, let me briefly review the plot. Be wary of spoilers ahead, you have been warned.
The film begins with Stella’s words about the importance of human contact. She said that humans need touch in their entire life, especially from those who they love. However, she never understood the meaning of touch—his touch. Later, I realized ‘his’ refers to Will, someone who suffers from the same illness as Stella. Stella, again, played by Halley Lu Richardson, manages her cystic fibrosis with obsessive-compulsive disorder (better known as OCD). In the hospital, she has a friend named Poe with the same illness as her. Later on, Will, another cystic fibrosis sufferer, comes. He is more relaxed even ignoring his medical treatment. It causes Stella’s perfectionist to awaken to assist Will. Their relationship becomes more complicated when they fall in love with each other. As cystic fibrosis sufferers, they must stay six feet apart to prevent transmission that will worsen their disease. Realizing their relationship is going to be worse, Will decides to break his relationship with Stella. Stella becomes sad and worries about him until they get an idea with a stick. It helps them to stay close even if there is a stick as a barrier for them. However, there is one thing that causes terrible activity. It all starts with Stella, who sneaks one foot closer to Will whenever they touch. Thus, Five Feet Apart represents Stella’s bad judgment.
I just realized Richardson’s brilliance acting as Stella. She may not have cystic fibrosis, but the way she acts would be similar to others who have it. The sad reality of what Stella has to face will affect viewer’s emotions. How she delivers someone suffering cystic fibrosis disease is excellent. Her portrayal of someone’s staying tough while hiding her fragile true emotions is just great. Her natural acting also makes us sympathize with her failed relationship with Will. Will and Stella love each other, but they are unable to touch just because of their disease. Meanwhile, looking at Stella as the main character of this story, her role is the cause of the whole story—starting with her spirit to help Will in his treatment and ending with her failed relationship with Will.
Another thing that I mentioned in this film is the implied message which has two perspectives: an optimistic and a pessimistic perspective. The optimistic message from this film is the spiritual aspects shown by Stella and Will trying to remain alive despite their extreme illness. So, this film could provide moral support to those who are desperate as cystic fibrosis patients. Another optimistic implied message is that this film depicts how cystic fibrosis patients deal with their issues. Even though we are healthy people, we can know how cystic fibrosis sufferers face their problems.
However, people with cystic fibrosis might be triggered by several things in this film because it contains some medical inaccuracies. The fact that people with cystic fibrosis on film are allowed to travel freely outside of the hospital is fatal since the protocol and the CF unit are meant to be highly strict in this aspect. Furthermore, several nurses in the footage are not wearing complete PPE (Personal Protective Equipment). The scene in which Stella and Will spend a lot of time without masks to avoid inhaling germs also seems unusual. Those inaccuracies look like an impossibility that happens among those who suffer from cystic fibrosis. Instead of raising consciousness, this film seems to be reckless in conveying its message. As a result, people of cystic fibrosis sufferers might argue that the implied message of this film is also flawed.
Overall, Five Feet Apart is an emotional drama with complex conflicts, great visuals, and a devastating ending. This film tells us about a couple who fights their illness together, but the ending is unexpected and unsolved. However, this film will be recommended, especially for people who love to watch romantic dramas. Besides telling the true love between Stella and Will, this film also gives emotional support to those suffering from cystic fibrosis. Nevertheless, healthy people will also get a new insight into how cystic fibrosis sufferers face their problems. We can feel the sufferers’ emotions in this film because of how well the actors play their roles. Even though this film isn’t entirely scientifically correct, it is still successful at making us sympathize with Stella and Will’s relationship. However, for the anticipation, they must put awareness of several strange things in this film for those who might be triggering.
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Aly, A. (2019, April 1). Five feet apart [Illustration]. Behance. https://www.behance.net/gallery/78297905/five-feet-apart