Scrapbook featuring Cole Sprouse and Haley Richardson in Five Feet Apart with movie tickets and scribbles

What Are Your Thoughts on Five Feet Apart?

As someone in the cystic fibrosis community, you have probably heard about Five Feet Apart. Five Feet Apart is a book-turned-Blockbuster film that details and stories of Stella and Will, 2 teenagers with cystic fibrosis who meet during a clinical trial. Due to the 6-foot rule, the teens cannot touch or get too close to one another.

The film had mixed reviews from CFers around the world. We asked our team of CF advocates what they thought about Five Feet Apart. Here is what they shared with us.

Please note that if you have not seen the movie or read the book, you may read a few spoilers in this article!

What did you think of Five Feet Apart?

I was finally seen

Response from Janeil Whitworth

After reading the book and seeing Five Feet Apart in the theaters, I felt as if I was finally seen. All the experiences and emotions of having CF were right there displayed for everyone to see firsthand on the screen. I felt the writer and producers did a pretty good job portraying CF to a general audience with varying knowledge of CF. Of course, some things were a little unrealistic or romanticized for entertainment, but the complexity of CF is almost impossible to represent in such a short timeframe. All in all, I enjoyed Five Feet Apart.

It brought an awareness to CF

Response from Meagan Brackeen

I do not have strong feelings one way or another about the book and movie "Five Feet Apart." I see both the positive and negative aspects of the story. On one hand, I appreciate the attention it gives to cystic fibrosis and the realities of the disease as far as isolation from other CF patients. It brought an awareness to CF for people who otherwise might not know about it. On the other hand, so many parts were unrealistic and it romanticized the very real and serious threat of CF patients being too close to each other.

Not exactly accurate

Response from Marieliz Landa

The movie Five Feet Apart in my opinion was not exactly accurate. I think it depicted a very romantic picture and was largely based on a fairy tale teenage love story with added implementations of CF. The hospital scenes were odd because every patient goes through unique treatment regimens based on their health status. The fact that patients in the film could roam around the hospital freely was false, as CF protocols and units are extremely strict on that, and nursing staff were not fully dressed in PPE.

Also, the transplant was unrealistic because patients are usually on ECMO afterward with chest tubes, plus PPE, etc. I just found it more like a romance teen thing and not what I thought it would be, so I was let down.

They did a good job

Response from Katelyn Harlow

I thought it was a good movie! There was some artistic license that was used in some scenes, but that’s to be expected in a movie. For example, the scene where the CF patients and their friends all have dinner together made me cringe! I’m very germ-conscious and the only thought I had during that scene was, “Oh! Too close! Too close!”

I still think they did a great job capturing the emotions of having CF, what it feels like to be in the hospital for so long, and the toll living with an illness has on the patient and their families.

I felt I could relate

Response from Kate Eveling

In my opinion, Five Feet Apart was a relatable depiction of living with cystic fibrosis. Even though CF is a versatile condition, there were some key elements in there that were relatable to everyone with CF, from showcasing pills, coughing and breathlessness, to hospital admissions, surgery, and having friends with CF. It highlights the issue of cross-infection, without promoting it.

However, there were two parts which really stuck with me, the first of which was right at the beginning when Stella pretends to be fine with her friends going to a party, and when they leave there was a palpable tang of loneliness in the air. I certainly have felt this before whilst staying in the hospital and feeling left out.

The second, was the anger which can occasionally crop up when the full impact of CF hits. The weight of being a part of a condition that sometimes you want to leave so badly. The anger for what it can take from you.

There were a few things in the film which might not happen in reality, but it’s important to remember that it is just a film and there does need to be some kind of cinematic leeway. Saying this though, one thing I’d note is the film portrayed and implied that CF is a teenage condition when the reality is people are living much longer now. And I wish there was mention of this so it would not give people false expectations. But overall, I really enjoyed it and it was the first film I’ve seen where I felt I could relate to it a lot.

Fairly realistic

Response from Ella Balasa

I thought the Five Feet Apart movie was a fairly realistic perspective of the CF experience though it had a "Fault in our Stars" plot spin, which made it slightly predictable. I know it received a lot of backlash from the CF community when it was released because essentially it was condoning two people with CF being together, which is discouraged by the CF Foundation.

Around the time of the movie’s release, I read an article written by someone with CF who shared his story about his first wife who also had CF and passed away after a transplant. He shared about their love story and how having CF bonded them like nothing else could. It was beautiful. Although there was the risk of bacterial transmission between them, if their love and spending even those few years together made them the happiest they could be, well then I would choose that over a long life of much less fulfillment and joy.

Turning point in support and understanding

Response from Holly Williams

As a mom to a child with CF, I am overwhelmingly grateful for the awareness Five Feet Apart brought to cystic fibrosis. Personally, when our friends and family watched the movie it helped them understand aspects of CF that were a bit confusing beforehand. It marked a turning point in the type of support and understanding we received from others too.

Was it a perfect spot on representation of someone with CF? No. Because every journey is so different, it’s impossible to have one storyline encompass every part of CF. I was just thankful for the film overall! I still haven't watched the entire thing, though!

What did you think of Five Feet Apart? Share your thoughts in this forum!

Read some of our other Ask The Health Leaders articles in our featured collection here.

By providing your email address, you are agreeing to our privacy policy.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Join the conversation

Please read our rules before commenting.