Gabriela Cowperthwaite directs the trio of Casey Affleck, Jason Segal, and Dakota Johnson in Our Friend. Matt (Casey Affleck) and Nicole (Dakota Johnson) are a happily married couple residing in Fairhope, Alabama, raising their two daughters. One day they receive the life-altering news that Nicole has terminal cancer. It is then that they find unexpected support from their best pal Dane (Jason Segel).
Dane puts his own life on hold and moves into their family home. Bringing an impact much more significant and more profound than anyone could have imagined. Writer Brad Ingelsby utilized the real Matthew Teague 2015 award-winning Esquire article "The Friend: Love Is Not a Big Enough Word" for his screenplay. While I was already sold on the movie after the Dakota Johnson and Jason Segal casting, I read the article after seeing the film. Now I want to avoid the old adage of the source material is better and properly critique the movie. However, in reading the excellent article, I will point out why some of the changes were made for the film adaptation.
Our Friend opens up with Matt and Nicole deciding to tell their daughters that Mommy will die and figure out the best way to approach it. Dane is entertaining the girls with jokes and games outside on the porch when Matt calls them in. While we don't see the actual conversation until later in the film, the tearful reaction we hear from the girls and Dane's response lets us know that the girls are heartbroken. From there, the film takes a non-linear approach to its storytelling that may annoy some viewers, but the way it all comes together all makes sense.
If I am honest, I can admit that I've never been a die-hard fan of Casey Affleck's acting style. To this day, I don't think he deserved the Oscar for Manchester by the Sea. However, in later years he has impressed with some of his choices. In Matt's role, I found myself identifying with the actor and what he brings to the character. There's a great moment where Matt tells Nicole he's taking another writing assignment that will require him to be away from his family once again.
The conversation the two have reminded me of my own conversations with my spouse and how sometimes men must realize that providing for their spouse requires more than money. Then there's the moment where Matt finds out that Nicole has cancer, which reminded me of when I found out my own son would have to undergo chemo as a child.
In Nicole's role, Dakota Johnson continues to erase away the misconceptions she received with the Fifty Shades trilogy. Now her acting was never an issue for me personally, but I can understand why some would. The script gives us glimpses of Nicole's talent and woman coming to terms with her impending death. One of the moments that really hit home for me was when Nicole begins to write letters to her daughters about the milestones of womanhood that she won't get to experience with them.
However, it's Jason Segel's performance of Dane that is the heart of the film. Segel has always had a likable everyman persona in his movies who possess laid back qualities. Now the easy route to go would've been a comedy, but instead, Dane has his own struggles and issues, but he pushes them to the back to help his friend out. Truthfully I would love to see Segel in more dramatic work. Throughout the entire film, I was reminded of one of my best friends who passed away last summer and his selfishness.
When Our Friend does reach its inevitable conclusion, the tears I shed were earned and not forced. Honestly, the film is a bit therapeutic. It solidifies just how much friends can turn into your family when they are needed. Our Friend is highly recommended as the film features honest performances and a heartfelt message,
Final Grade B+
Our Friend is showing in limited theaters and also available on VOD.