Last year, a lot of us realized which friendships and relationships are most important to us. Enduring challenging obstacles, feeling isolated, and facing health scares brought to light for many of us who will remain by your side when things are less than ideal. Writer Brad Ingelsby and director Gabriela Cowperthwaite have cultivated a new film in Our Friend that revolves around this experience while also facing larger issues. That it’s a true story only makes it more powerful.
Based on the Matthew Teague Esquire article The Friend, Our Friend chronicles the story of couple Nicole and Matt, their daughters, and their best friend, Dane. When Nicole receives a devastating medical diagnosis, Dane puts his life on hold to help the family through the toughest period of their lives. Throughout this journey, every character experiences a colossal range of emotions while emphasizing how hard true friendship can be to come by.
Jason Segel plays Dane, and delivers the strongest performance of his career. The actor has proven that he can insert himself into comedies, teen angst series, and even musicals. However, Segel astonishes in a more serious role. He truly embraces his character and all of the emotions that would come with attempting to be a supportive and bright figure during a somber time. One particular segment involving Dane hiking in the Grand Canyon with a kind stranger, played by Gwendoline Christie, will make every viewer connect with Segel on a level they may not have thought possible. His acting style is natural and the role of Dane feels meant for him, pairing humor with emotion. Segel is a true delight to watch, and his acting is the foundation of this magnificent picture.
Casey Affleck is no stranger to diving into very dark, heart-wrenching roles, having won an Oscar for one such performance. Affleck plays Matt in this film, and while many may be used to watching the actor embrace a more depressing character, the way Affleck performs in this movie feels dissimilar. With each scene, viewers can relate to the very real, very human issues that Matt faces and Affleck beautifully portrays. The actor shows us a very vast range of emotions, and they all resonate wonderfully.
It is no easy feat to portray a character that is battling with health issues while shifting between a kaleidoscope of emotions. Dakota Johnson makes it seem effortless in this movie. The young actress fully transforms into the character of Nicole, and makes it nearly impossible to watch her without feeling a surge of sympathy. Johnson may just be one of the best performances you’ll see in 2021. She generates a large amount of the heart that this film embodies, with assistance from her co-stars Affleck and Segel. Observing this star-studded ensemble work together so gracefully is a genuine delight, and Johnson forges their path.
Chances are that director Gabriela Cowperthwaite has made you cry one time or another through her emotional works. Cowperthwaite has only directed four movies thus far, and each one is deeply affecting. This includes the heart-wrenching documentary Blackfish that she also wrote, and the touching feature film Meagan Levy. Our Friend fits beautifully into this heartfelt roster. The director has a stunning way of creating works that keep viewers captivated, sympathetic, and blubbering. This film is no exception, as she managed to develop a 124-minute picture that will never lose your interest. The brilliant way that Cowperthwaite decided to tell this story while jumping through different periods of time is gripping and will leave you wanting more. It is safe to say that there will be countless audiences around the world eager for even more from Cowperthwaite in the very near future.
Writer Brad Ingelsby also has a talent for imagining striking stories from forlorn experiences. Having previously written works like The Way Back, Out of the Furnace and American Woman, Ingelsby brings the same despondent yet outstanding energy to this film. The writer has found his niche when it comes to writing sad stories that are beautiful and unforgettable. While there is awards buzz for Ingelsby regarding The Way Back, garnering an award for the brilliant writing he pours into Our Friend would be just as worthy a citation by voters.
Our Friend will make you want to embrace those who are most significant to you. Having such a relatable, human movie at our fingertips during a time that can leave us longing for interaction is a wonderful thing that should not be overlooked. Simply put: Our Friend should not be missed.
The stunning film is available in select theaters as well as on demand beginning January 22, 2021. Be sure to have tissues ready, and wait for the credits to begin rolling for a surprising encore of a tearjerker.