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"Five" aims to encourage survivors and raise breast cancer awareness


Last night I sat down to watch the much-ballyhooed Five, a collection of five interwoven short films about different women facing a breast cancer diagnosis. I had high hopes for the much-hyped movie, but then I remembered I was watching a Lifetime movie, complete with clichés and much schmaltz. Now I am by no means dissing the cause or message of the film. I think lending star power to encourage survivors and raise awareness about breast cancer is fantastic, but that does not mean everyone needs to step behind the camera. You can check out the stars behind the film in the PSA below.Five opens with the heavy-handed short film, "Charlotte," which is really more about Charlotte's daughter Pearl who never receives a real explanation of why her mom is so sick. Set against the backdrop of the first lunar landing, which is obviously supposed to evoke Nixon's declaration of war on cancer and the oft batted around idea, "If we can land a man on the moon, why can't we cure cancer?," this is meant to be the audience's point of reference for the four following films--a where-we-have-been as a society and for our main protagonist, Pearl. Pearl later grows up to become an oncologist who helps three other women with their breast cancer diagnoses as well as facing her own diagnosis.What struck a chord with me were the unexpected moments, such as Patricia Clarkson's turn as a Stage IV patient who decides to experience everything she can in life, even going so far as to hold her own mock funeral (hilarious). Or Jeffrey Tambor representing men with breast cancer, an often overlooked minority. Lili's (Rosario Dawson) response to seeing him waiting with her in a center for "women's" cancer was perfectly timed shock and embarrassment. Or not shying away from showing double mastectomy scars while a young couple deals with sexuality issues. My quibbles with the stories lie in how they gloss over some of the facts. Mostly, I kept wondering why most of the women kept their hair and generally looked fabulous? Why was Patricia Clarkson's Mia the only one heaving her guts out and losing her hair? However, the main goal of these vignettes was to provide an uplifting message of survivorship, signified by the penultimate moment of all the characters gathering to celebrate Pearl's five-year survivorship. And as a means of encouragement and raising awareness for breast cancer of all types (various stages of diagnosis, both genders, a variety of ages and ethnicities are represented) the overall movie succeeds.In conjunction with the film's release, Lifetime is offering a discussion guide as well as spearheading a movement to prevent "drive-through" mastectomies. You can find more information and survivor stories here.

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