Hi! Before I get into this week’s review I want to thank all of you for the amazing response to my personal essay on my family farm. I believe that is the highest-performing post to date on my site and I love the support. I’ll have more personal essays going forward and I’m excited to keep sharing my real story. On to a review of a fantastic movie.
Let me preface this by saying I do not have cystic fibrosis, nor have I spent a majority of my life in the hospital. However, I do have a unique knowledge of being a medically complex person, and from that angle this movie rings true for me in so many ways, telling a long-overdue story.
The movie centers on Stella Grant (Haley Lu Richardson) and Will Newman (Cole Sprouse, in a sharp contrast from his Disney role), as two teenagers with CF, balancing the tension of love and chronic illness. One of my favorite aspects of the movie was the ongoing struggle of the actors to portray intimacy and tension, but never touch each other. It’s a testament to both actors how well they convey the emotion based primarily on facial expressions and dialogue. There’s one especially moving scene right beside a pool, about an hour into the movie that is the pinnacle of this balancíng act.
Let’s start with the fact that Justin Baldoni is the director of the movie. If you don’t know who he is, there is a link to his TED Talk at the bottom of the post. I was unaware that he was the director until the credits started rolling, but I was pleasantly surprised. After I watched the movie, i learned that he made a 30-minute documentary on Claire Wineland, and that she served as a consultant for this movie.
A word on Will’s characterization: he seems to have three different personalities within two hours. He starts off a bit…of a jerk, and definitely nihilistic. Within about 20 minutes he softens up. Initially I thought this was too abrupt of a character change, but on the second watch I can see it was more of a defense than a different personality. Throughout the movie, Will maintains intense nihilism and struggles with understandable depression. Cole Sprouse also brings an intense smolder to the role that is irresistible.
A standout supporting role is Moises Arias as Poe, a CF friend to Stella. If that name looks familiar, he played Rico on Hannah Montana. It took me a second to adjust my perception of him, but he brought some humor and impartial perspective to a complex, emotional movie.
The other standout supporter is Nurse Barb, played by Kimberly Hebert Gregory. Her appearance and mannerisms remind me a lot of Bethel University campus pastor Laurel Búnker, and that made her caregiving role all the sweeter to watch. Side note: nurses are some of the most underrated, hardworking people there are. They deal with all manner of trauma and pain on a daily basis, all while remaining positive and tender towards patients. Nurses deserve more recognition! End side note.
After watching the movie the second time, I realized that there were in fact a few issues with the pacing. One, the last 30 minutes of the movie are so packed with plot that it can be a tad overwhelming. Two, the entire story is supposed to occur within one month. Some say the story feels shorter than that, but I actually think it feels a bit longer.
Ok. Without direct spoilers, I need to comment on the end of the movie. In the theater, it made me very mad. I thought “this is not ok to do to someone in this condition!” And I held that view for a couple of hours, until I realized that the action is sad and painful, but ultimately necessary for the story to resolve with proper closure for all involved.
(Justin Baldoni-Why I’m done trying to be “man enough”)