Sunday, May 26, 2024

Movie Review: ‘Our Friend’ is a Relatable Weeper Filled with the Acceptance of One’s Emotions


Director: Gabriela Cowperthwaite
Writers: Brad Ingelsby
Stars: Jason Segel, Dakota Johnson, Casey Affleck, Cherry Jones, Gwendoline Christie

Synopsis: A caring man puts his own life on hold to help out his friends, a couple who is facing a devastating crisis.

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As this review begins, there is sadness flowing through my heart. You see, when I was a young boy, my parents divorced, rocking the core of my family. Shortly after their separation, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, and we were all scared at the possibility of losing her. My dad and my mom had dozens of conversations, setting aside their trivial differences that brought two people, who once loved each other, to the point of their uncoupling. The new terms to their partnership as parents was for her to get better so they could continue to raise the child they both love unconditionally. I barely remember those days now, and that’s mostly because I never saw the worst parts of what cancer can do to a person. And all that really mattered, in the end, was my mother’s victory and continuation of life.

But when I was in college, and I was getting off of work, I got two phone calls back to back from my mom. If anyone knows anything about human communication, if you get multiple calls from someone, chances are slim that it is a good thing. She let me know that it had returned, and my heart sank to the floor. Tears poured as I dashed over to her house to console her, her body shaking and pain in her heart that she had to go to battle again. Helpless and naïve the first go around, I did what any person would do for their loved ones, and spent month after month helping her fight until she won again, and ended this once and for all. She is a true champion and one of my heroes.

So when the final credits came up for Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s Our Friend, I felt this filmmaking team had looked right into my life, and made something so deeply personal, that all I could do was cry. Our Friend follows the true story of Dane Faucheux (Jason Segel), who moves in with his best friend Matt Teague (Casey Affleck) to help him take care of his wife and other best friend Nicole Teague (Dakota Johnson), the Teague’s two daughters, and anything in between. Dane is a lost soul, struggling to find his purpose in life, while his friends are going through the rough waters of being married with two kids and juggling day to day life. Once Nicole is sick, it’s clear that Dane finds out what he really should be doing, which is taking care of the people he loves the most and that reciprocate those emotions back to him.

The movie is a two-hour display of the slow-moving train towards the end of a loved one’s life. Fragmented in between are moments of laughter, anger, sorrow, excitement, and peace to give Our Friend a real balance of tone. We flash back and forth through time, to show good and bad moments before Nicole’s sickness and really get the sense of who these people are. It can be easy to make an extremely dour version of this movie, one where none of these characters get to just take a deep breath and feel like this is a harsh part of life. Death comes for us all, but it’s how we choose to go out and who is there to help us in this fight that really matters at the end of the day.

There is a moment where Nicole is yelling at the friends who won’t come see her anymore, and instead of screaming back at her, Dane and Matt let her vent. They are her vessels to let out all kinds of emotions and they get their shields up just enough around Matt’s daughters so they don’t see how truly sad all of this is. In the end, no one else matters for Nicole because she has these two loving people there for her much like I was there for my mother and many others are there for their loved ones when they get cancer. With her turn as Nicole, Johnson showcases why she is one of the best actresses working today.

Our Friend also goes beyond the subject of death and tackles loneliness and grief beautifully, as well. With Dane’s lack of maturity and commitment to life, we get an entire segment of the film dominated by him going out into nature and finding some form of peace. It’s within this emotional discovery where he realizes what Matt and Nicole mean to him and why he has dropped his life for them. It’s because, in Dane’s mind, they are the only people worth caring for due to the fondness they have for each other. Segel easily gives the best performance of his career, and it’s nice to see him back on the big screen tackling difficult material.

And with Matt, we see the grief not only for what his wife is going through but for how it is going to affect his children, as well as his job taking time away from his home life. Affleck is one of the only actors in the world that can pull off a performance like this, giving Matt all the little moments of silence between scenes that make him more than just the clichéd character he could have been on the page. His chemistry with Johnson is so believable, as we feel like these two have been through it all, have fought to stay together, and will battle to keep Nicole alive as much as possible.

I could have spent so much time with these characters in this story but it would have required another box of tissues to get through an extended run time. In the end, the movie finds peace through all of its messaging and leaves us knowing that these people, and everyone affected by cancer, will be okay in the long run because we will make sure no one fights it alone. Cherish each moment you have with them and give them all your heart. And with this, before typing a single word, I called my mom and told her how much I loved her with all my heart, and just her saying it back to me broke me down again.

Grade: B+

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