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Our Friend: A First-Rate Drama That Explores Friendship, Grief and Loss

January 20, 2021

Grade – A – Our Friend is a heartfelt film that features excellent performances, solid direction, and a lot of heart. The dramatization of its source material has turned several critics off, but I really appreciate the emotion and drama.

Based on “The Friend,” a 2015 Esquire article by Matthew Teague, Our Friend tells the story of a man named Dane (Jason Segel) being a very good friend, to his friends Nicole (Dakota Johnson) and Matt Teague (Casey Affleck). Spanning 15+ years, Our Friend uses nonlinear storytelling to tell the story of two evolving relationships that go through ups, downs, and more of both. The first relationship is between Nicole and Matt, who meet in New Orleans, get married, have two kids, and move to a suburb in Alabama. The other relationship is the friendship between Nicole and Matt, and their friend Dane, who manages a sporting goods store in New Orleans, and comes to their aide (for several years) when Nicole is diagnosed with cancer.

What makes Our Friend work so well is how it explores friendship, grief, and loss in a mature and intimate manner. Director Gabriela Cowperthwaite (Megan Leavey, Blackfish – excellent documentary) and writer Brad Ingelsby (The Way Back, Out of the Furnace) do a commendable job of letting intimate moments breath, which allows the experienced cast to shine. Our Friend is loaded with “small” personal moments which feel refreshing and give the characters room to become three-dimensional people who have flaws, imperfections and eccentricities. I love how Cowperthwaite includes character-developing hiking trips, and intimate moments on porch swings, that make us like and understand the characters more. Also, kudos to cinematographer Joe Anderson (The Old Man and the Gun) for creating an interesting visual palette that utilizes symmetry, wide-angle lenses and door frames expertly.

Dakota Johnson and Casey Affleck are reliably solid as the married couple in need of help, and their performances are layered and likable throughout. The standout performance belongs to Jason Segel, who imbues his character with a believable dose of ennui, enthusiasm and melancholy. Several reviews have labeled his character as a “loser,” (which is super lazy), this is incorrect as Dane is clearly suffering from depression, and struggles with constant self-doubt. The highlight of the film comes when Dane goes on a long hiking trek in the middle of nowhere, and has an interaction with a fellow hiker named Teresa (Gwendoline Christie), who sees through his façade, and helps him through his current doubt of sadness (it’s really neat).

If you’re in the mood for a solid drama that features excellent performances, it doesn’t get any better than Our Friend.

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