“Five Feet Apart”…. How am I supposed to feel?

I first heard about the upcoming film Five Feet Apart when an advanced reader’s copy of the novelization popped up in my Amazon Vine que (the program I am that essentially gives/taxes me free crap I get to review). Ever since Jade’s diagnosis of cystic fibrosis I have been trying to orient myself as a parent of a toddler in the CF world. I ordered the book, read it, raced to be the first reviewer (not that it matters), and then delved into other opinions. I belong to a couple of CF Facebook reviews, and I tentatively posted their thoughts about the upcoming film where two young CF patients receiving inpatient treatment fall victim to teenage twitterpation despite the general recommendation CF patients remain at least six feet apart.

Turns out, unsurprisingly, there is some controversy on the film and I think I only understand the surface of why. I’ve barely been in this game half a year. But cystic fibrosis is a horrible disease. It broke my heart to hear Jade’s diagnosis. While my husband’s cousin seems to be going just fine in his mid-30s and my mom’s old coworker also seems to be going just fine and a bunch of other people online seem to be going through life just fine, the disease sucks. Despite a relative optimistic prediction for Jade’s future, I still can’t get rid of all worry.

The movie’s story features its young lovers as people in worse situations than others. I’m happy to have found stories of many, many people with CF living rather boring lives that don’t involve practically being raised in a hospital. Will and Stella of star-crossed lover situation don’t have that. Stella requires a lung transplant, Will has contracted a very troublesome bacteria. I think it’s fair to say that of all CF patients, these two definitely not should be in a close quarters.

Hence the controversy. A serious disease like cystic fibrosis is receiving the romance-in-tragedy treatment, a drama milking on cystic fibrosis with people who have never lived it. And what is it telling youngsters? It’s okay to play fast and loose with medical advice because of a teen romance film? What is this encouraging?

I’m glad Amazon Vine sent me a copy of the book. I’m glad I know how the book ends. I won’t spoil it at this time, but my ultimate opinion of the book was that it was but a teen romance, one that does not end with particular tragedy, might have the dubious honor of throwing CF out into the public mind, and perhaps might even be a springboard for a discussion. I think I gave it 4 out of 5 stars.

Even as I read about the interweb for opinions and saw many practically protesting the film, I saw plenty of CF patients and loved ones thrilled for it. I even saw reports of CF couples living, again, those boring hospital-free lives. I saw CF patients talking about how they don’t always understand the rule, even saying they’re pretty sure their lives have probably put them in unknowing close contact with other CF patients.

Yes, in some ways the book made me fearful. What if the doctors who assured me Jade will most likely live a full long life are wrong? What if random bad things happen in the future? But I also took it for what it’s worth: a romance telling a story.

I reiterate my point about using it for a discussion if the idea of a CF couple worries you. I also want to assure it wasn’t what I worried it might be. I want to assure that it really doesn’t celebrate and encourage CF couples. And that it was a pretty nice story.

So, among the controversy I see, from a woman who probably doesn’t yet know what she is talking about but who also got to read the book early: it’s just a movie.

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