June 15, 2019

5B is in select theaters on June 14th, 2019.

5B is a documentary about the staff and patients of San Francisco General Hospital’s AIDS ward during the early years of the epidemic. Founded as the world’s first inpatient AIDS ward that originally could only provide hospice care, they made waves for the compassionate care they provided to their patients such as refusing to wear masks and not being afraid to touch the young, gay men who filled their hospital beds. Former nurses and volunteers are among those who give interviews in this film, providing a first-hand account of their struggles and eventual triumphs.

While the staff certainly deserve to be commended for their work (despite what Dr. Lorraine Day would have viewers believe, whose inclusion in the film I found odd), I found the movie itself to be pretty conventional and boring. It was cool to see the occasional flashback footage amid modern-day interviews and you can tell they are rightly heartbroken over what they had to live through. However, with a heavy subject and many hats in the ring, it lacked a sort of driving force to really carry it along, and only really became slightly inspiring in the last 10 or 15 minutes.

While the subjects of 5B convinced me of the significance of San Francisco General Hospital’s work, I think last year’s Sundance standout, Quiet Heroes provides a more compelling account of the early years of the AIDS crisis. Or, for a dramatic interpretation, HBO’s The Normal Heart starring Mark Ruffalo was also a great watch. That being said, if you can’t get enough AIDS history or you were around San Francisco in the ‘80s, this may be the film for you.

Rating: 2 out of 5

Joanna Joanna (Guest Contributor) was born and raised in Metro Detroit. A fan of thought-provoking thrillers and indie films, she also enjoys a good chick flick. When not at the movies, she can be found running, reading, or writing bar trivia.
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