The 400-Word Review: Our Friend
By Sean Collier
January 23, 2021
I suppose, at this particular moment, we can’t really fault anyone for poor timing.
With the exception of ham-fisted attempts at relevance (like HBO Max’s misguided pandemic comedy “Locked Down”), every movie currently hitting screens and devices was at least conceived and likely filmed long before the world changed. So, while a certifiable weeper like the heartbreaking drama “Our Friend” may seem to be precisely not what the world needs right now, it can hardly be held against them.
Take the following mild endorsement, then, in this spirit: Here’s a movie that will allow you to have a nice, cathartic cry at an indeterminate point in the future when you have fewer practical matters to weep about.
Adapted from an award-winning Esquire article by Matthew Teague (played here by Casey Affleck), “Our Friend” jumps between scenes in the life of his late wife, Nicole (Dakota Johnson). Nicole, an occasional musical-theater performer, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in her early 30s; as her health deteriorated and Matthew spent more of his time and effort on her care, the couples’ close friend Dane (Jason Segel) moved in to help with the kids.
As the title — underlined by a rare heartwarming moment at the end of the film — indicates, the story is more about friendship than it is about cancer. The nature of Dane’s devotion to Matt and Nicole is something different than mere friendship; in that way, “Our Friend” is a fascinating document, exploring the ways that a personal relationship can strain against and surpass traditional roles.
It should be noted, though, that the movie would’ve benefitted from more of a narrow focus. A great deal of time is spent on the years before Nicole’s diagnosis, setting up the strained nature of the marriage (Matt spent a lot of time circling the globe as a reporter, leading to tensions at home). This undoubtedly flavors the way the trio operates with one another, but is probably beyond the scope — and serves to add more misery to an already heaping portion.
While Affleck is miscast (and out of his depth), Johnson does a lovely job of capturing the spirit which makes those around Nicole hold her in such reverence. Segel, underutilized as of late, taps into a remarkable, soulful place, quietly embodying Teague’s message about Dane’s importance to their lives. Segel is good enough to make “Our Friend” worth the pain.
My Rating: 7/10
“Our Friend” is available via digital on-demand services.