As COVID-19 progresses and states begin to shelter-in-place, people are searching for movies to watch. From ‘Thank You For Smoking’ to ‘Five Feet Apart,’ here are a few Hollywood films depicting interesting, relevant public health concepts to keep you thinking and entertained.
We’re recommending feature films from distinct genres — a satire about Big Tobacco and product perception, a biographical drama of an unconventional H.I.V advocate, a romance that develops while teens with chronic illness practice social distancing, and a mystery film about drug side effects and murder.
Thank You For Smoking (2005)
Satirical comedy. Available on HBO.
‘Thank You For Smoking’ follows big tobacco lobbyist and father Nick Naylor. Played by Aaron Eckhart, Naylor is employed with the task of speaking on behalf of cigarette companies — cancer-causing, addictive substances.
Using satire and comedy, the film chronicles Naylor’s questioning moral stamina as he argues against anti-smoking campaigns and raises his son. It represents Big Tobacco’s influence and imitates some real-world issues, including how consumer perception of products impacts awareness of risk and consent to consumption.
The film reflects historical remnants that are still relevant today. A current health concern, lawmakers and litigators fight to regulate e-cigarettes and vaping, while states sue JUU for marketing addictive nicotine products to a new generation.
Dallas Buyers Club (2013)
Biographical drama. Available on Netflix.
Based on a true story, ‘Dallas Buyers Club’ follows the life of Ron Woodroof. Living fast and hard, Matthew McConaughey as Woodroof is a fearless electrician who moonlighted as a Texas cowboy in his spare time. He’s diagnosed with H.I.V and given 30 days to live.
Set in the ’80s in Dallas, Woodroof establishes a network to smuggle experimental medications into the United States, first from Mexico and then internationally. He begins selling unapproved drugs to help others, developing a relationship with Rayon, a trans addict with AIDS played by Jared Leto.
The film depicts the life of an unconventional patient advocate. Though the filmmakers did introduce some fictional elements, ‘Dallas Buyers Club’ may serve as a dramatized introduction to understanding the long, troubled road many H.I.V/AIDS patients walked to access medication.
Five Feet Apart (2019)
Romantic Drama. Available on Hulu.
Teenagers Stella (Haley Lu Richardson) and Will (Cole Sprouse) are both cystic fibrosis (CF) patients staying in a children’s hospital. In ‘Five Feet Apart,’ the teens become close and decide to date — a risky decision due to their illness.
To prevent life-threatening cross-infection, the pair must stay at least six feet away from one another, much like the COVID-19social distancing recommendation to prevent the transmission of infectious particles. Stella and Will find creative ways to form a romantic relationship at a distance.
The film represents how young people with chronic illness live full lives, though they may be unable to have the same childhood and adolescent experiences others take for granted, like dating or going on trips with friends. For many, chronic illness isn’t something you overcome; it is something you always have.
Side Effects (2013)
Mystery, crime. Available on HBO.
After her husband — played by Channing Tatum — returns from prison, Emily (Rooney Mara) becomes depressed and attempts to take her own life. She starts seeing a psychiatrist and is prescribed different anti-depressants before settling on Ablixa, an experimental drug.
The Ablixa seems to work, with the only side effect being occasional sleepwalking episodes. However, during one episode, Emily has a serious adverse reaction. Though this movie is fictional, it makes viewers think about the drug approval process and the importance of black box warnings.
Doctors aren’t limited to prescribing medications for only FDA-approved uses, and one-in-five U.S. prescriptions are written “off-label.” The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has measures in place to protect patients from dangerous drugs, reduce unnecessary prescriptions and limit behavioral side effects, but medication misuse and reactions are still serious.
By MedTruth Editors