“I thought it was a story about Nicole.”
“I thought so too.”
When we’re young, we brag about having that BFF, or Best Friend Forever. We go to the movies together, and spend the night at each other’s house. But as we get older, our friends come and go. Our responsibilities become different. However, there’s still a part of us that wants that “ride or die” companion beside us during the good moments and the bad. Our Friend show us true friendship — the kind we all aim to have.
Our Friend is a true story based on an Esquire Magazine article of the same name. It tells the story of Matt (Casey Affleck) and Nicole Teague (Dakota Johnson), a young couple who are given the terrible news that Nicole has cancer. Matt is not the incredibly endearing father, as he constantly travels for work. He struggles to fill the void Nicole leaves as she can do fewer things to help take care of their two girls. Enter the Teague’s college best friend, Dane (Jason Segal). Dane is a loose end — one that doesn’t seem to have his whole life together. Dane drops everything, moves into the couple’s spare/laundry room, and assists Matt with Nicole’s medical needs, while also making sure the girls are taken care of and laughing. But as Nicole’s cancer spreads, the importance of togetherness becomes more important.
During quarantine, I’ve spent most evenings watching episode after episode of How I Met Your Mother. Jason’s Segal’s, Marshall Erickson, is in my opinion, the best character on that show. So as I watched Our Friend, it somewhat felt familiar as Segal once again plays the nurturing best friend. This is a serious film, no doubt, but Segal can turn any moment into a positive one as he adds the much needed comedy relief. But there’s something that Segal isn’t instantly known for, his drama. There’s a moment in the movie where Dane rubs Matt’s shoulder and asks him to wake up. Dane’s voice begins to crack as tears stream down his face. Segal’s performance, not just in this scene but in the whole movie, shows how truly talented he is. I need to see him in more dramatic films! Dakota Johnson can be labeled the token “sick girl” by others, but I am continued to be astounded by her choices as of late. If you loved Johnson in Peanut Butter Falcon, you’ll really love her here. There are moments when Nicole is going through the most heart-breaking pain, and Johnson illustrates it so well. As for Casey Affleck, he’s probably the most established actor of the main three, but his performance isn’t the central focus. I wanted Affleck to hit the heartache he was able to achieve in Manchester by the Sea, but he remains the quieter character.
Director Gabriela Cowperthwaite is familiar with bringing true-life stories to the big screen — her biggest film being the controversial documentary Blackfish. Cowperthwaite brings such honesty to these characters. There’s something so incredibly humane about them. Nicole’s diagnosis aside, each character comes with their own baggage. These characters aren’t perfect, nor do they pretend to be. They don’t shy away from revealing the bad things they’ve done, or what they’ve failed to achieve. There’s a small part with Dane as he goes hiking in a beautiful canyon. A German woman named Teresa (small yet great cameo by Gwendoline Christie) asks Dane to tag along with her. As they hike and talk with one another, she begins to connect with Dane and speaks the truth to him. This scene alone, is important to Dane’s odyssey and what he eventually does to help Matt and Nicole. The connections between every character in Our Friend, amplifies the theme of love and compassion in varying relationships.
So many of us say that we’ve learned a lot from the tragedies of 2020. We have learned to appreciate those around us, and not take for granted the life we have. With powerhouse performances and a beautiful story, this film illustrates the importance of love and friendship. Our Friend is an honest and cathartic film that is sure to bring tears to your eyes. Be warned: you may even ugly cry.
Directed by: Gabriela Cowperthwaite
Starring: Dakota Johnson, Jason Segal, Gwendoline Christie, Cherry Jones, and Casey Affleck