In March of 2019, CBS Films released a romantic drama titled “Five Feet Apart”, a fictional story of two young people living with cystic fibrosis and how they must avoid contact because of cross-infection risks. The trailer hints that the characters break these contact rules for the sake of their budding relationship.

Many cystic fibrosis advocates worry that this film sends the wrong message about the danger of contact within the cystic fibrosis community and that the film’s creators do not accurately depict what it’s like to live with this condition.

Others with cystic fibrosis are excited to see their condition represented in the mainstream media and hope that “Five Feet Apart” raises awareness.

We recently shared the trailer for “Five Feet Apart” with people in the Health Stories Project community who are living with cystic fibrosis and asked them to share their initial thoughts about its accuracy and impact on their community.

Here’s what they had to say:

“Five Feet Apart” an Exciting Step for Awareness

Most of our members are excited about the movie! 73% are very interested in seeing “Five Feet Apart” either to see a large part of their lives portrayed on the big screen or because of the publicity and awareness it brings to cystic fibrosis. There are others in our community who are worried the seriousness of the condition being downplayed and romanticized as part of a Hollywood production.

“I am so excited to see it and for it to bring awareness to cystic fibrosis.” – Tori

“I love seeing this condition represented on the mainstream media.” – Anonymous

“Any publicity that brings awareness to cystic fibrosis is good, even just enough so people look up what it is.” – Trini

Everyone’s CF is Different

When it comes to accurately representing cystic fibrosis, many living with CF aren’t sure how the movie would do. Some believe it will accurately portray the condition, while others believe it won’t, and even more think that it would only get some parts right. Our members emphasized that cystic fibrosis is a different experience for everyone who has it and “Five Feet Apart” couldn’t possibly be accurate for all who have the condition or show every detail of the condition in only a two-hour movie.

“There is a lot more to cystic fibrosis than can be portrayed because it’s not the same for everyone.” – Anonymous

“Cystic fibrosis is a complex condition. I wonder if people could understand it’s severity in less than two hours.” – Wendy

“They show the general idea of the condition, but the lifestyle and hardships are harder than they make it seem.” – Joan

What Life with Cystic Fibrosis is Really Like

Our community wants “Five Feet Apart” to show the real, daily struggles of the condition. Everyday maintenance, treatments, medications, and doctor’s appointments are part of an average day for many living with cystic fibrosis. Survey respondents want their reality on the screen and not used as a token struggle to pull at the heartstrings of viewers.

“There are so many things you can’t do. You can’t live a carefree life or even an unplanned day.” – Anonymous

“It affects every decision, every choice and every part of your life.” – Lora

“People with cystic fibrosis have to work twice as hard as everyone else just to do everyday things.” – Ashley

The Reality of Isolation

Unlike “Five Feet Apart”, most living with cystic fibrosis rarely, if ever, come into contact with others with their condition due to cross-infection risks. Our members described feeling lonely and isolated from those who understand what they are going through.

Contact rules are a challenging and discouraging part of living with cystic fibrosis, some have found that connecting online through social media allows interaction that is otherwise forbidden.

“You have people try and say they are there for you, but really they don’t know the real struggle with this illness.” – Anonymous

“It gets lonely not having anyone who truly understands what it’s like living with cystic fibrosis.” – Hannah

 “As I have become more active in social media, I’ve been able to connect with others with cystic fibrosis online, which is amazing.” – Anonymous

Does “Five Feet Apart” Accurately Represent Cystic Fibrosis?

After reading about “Five Feet Apart” and hearing from our community about what life with this condition is really like, I decided to go see the movie for myself. Please keep in mind that I do not have cystic fibrosis myself nor am I an expert on the condition by any means.

Many in the Health Stories Project community and others with cystic fibrosis are worried that the seriousness of this condition will be downplayed or romanticized and want their daily struggle represented. Throughout the movie, the hardships of cystic fibrosis were detailed, including it’s coughing fits, treatment regimen, impact on the family and on the mental health of those living with this condition. None of these factors appeared to be downplayed or glossed over in favor of a love story.

Another topic that was mentioned by those in the Health Stories Project community was that everyone’s cystic fibrosis is different, and that one person may experience the condition differently than everyone else. This too appeared to be portrayed well in movie. Each of the characters had their own, unique difficulties and varying degrees of condition severity. Some were destined for more healthy lives than others and not all had happy endings, just as in real life.

Do you think “Five Feet Apart” accurately portrayed cystic fibrosis?

If you’ve already seen the movie, leave your opinion below!

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