When tragedy strikes, powerful emotions from great actors emerge.
The new drama “Our Friend” represents the power of friendship and the drama of cancer in some of the most sincere ways. Director Gabriela Cowperthwaite (“Blackfish, Megan Leavey”) and writer Brad Ingelsby (“The Way Back”) both guide such terrific actors like Jason Segel, Dakota Johnson, and Casey Affleck in roles that allow them to express themselves and ease their emotions.
Watching this movie reminded me of themes from other independent films like “Diggers,” which was had Paul Rudd as a clam digger, “Jeff Who Lives At Home,” which also starred Jason Segel, and “Manchester by the Sea,” which was my pick of the best film of the decade and also had Casey Affleck. I’m not talking about their elements; I’m talking about their tones and actors and their own meanings of life. There are always challenges, and believe me, I, too, have faced some in my 28 years. “Our Friend” has its heart in the right place.
Casey Affleck and Dakota Johnson play Matt and Nicole Teague, a happily married Alabama couple with two little girls-Molly (Isabella Kai) and Evie (Violet McGraw)-and Jason Segel is their best friend Dane. In their work occupations or dreams, Matt is an ambitious journalist, and in real life, his Esquire article “The Friend” become the inspiration for this movie BTW; Nicole is an actress for a local theater; and Dane is a sporting good retailer manager and would-be comedian. But on their dramatic side, Nicole has been diagnosed with terminal cancer. They don’t know how long she has to live.
This story is presented before and after the diagnosis. This becomes a weakness, because it switches back and forth that I nearly became confused. But, on a positive note, there are moments that kept me involved and wanted more from them.
Dane offers to help Matt raise their two girls, while Nicole struggles to get medical assistance. His girlfriend Kat (Marielle Scott) from New Orleans wants more of a relationship commitment from him, while he struggles to find his own ambitions in life. Since Matt was away for work a lot, Molly often resents him, especially when Nicole’s cancer was the perfect time for him to be around more often. Nicole doesn’t want the girls to know she’s not gonna make it just yet, and intends to make a bucket list. And a secret threatens to destroy her marriage.
“Our Friend” kept me involved when we see Nicole struggle to overcome her condition, when Dane figures out his directions in life, and when Molly becomes estranged with Matt. You’re able to see the characters and their scopes merging quite well with the beautiful photography by Joe Anderson and music by Rob Simonsen. And the locations are just lovely to gaze at.
Segel gives one of his best performances, on par with “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” and “The End of the Tour,” when he’s able to transcend from being a comedy actor to a more serious actor. I met him back in 2012, and seeing him in this particular role really has me proud of him. I also met Affleck when he was promoting “Manchester by the Sea,” and you know what, I just love this actor for his abilities to play characters. Forget that “Fifty Shades of Grey” crap, and see how believable Johnson is when she appears in artisan films and actually plays humans, not dopey robots. And Kai makes an impressive introduction, and she might have a future if she doesn’t succumb to the generic kid cliches, and really kicks it up a notch.
The movie may lose interest when we see the time period switch back and forth, but we do fight back, and see the true colors that Cowperthwaite and Ingelsby both provide. This is something to see.
Streaming On Demand And In Select Theaters