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Our Friend Movie Review: A Sanitized Sobfest

Our Friend Movie Poster

Thinking about watching Our Friend? Go read “The Friend: Love Is Not A Big Enough Word” by Matthew Teague first. The essay serves as a love letter to Dane Faucheux, Teague’s best friend, who moved in with Teague and his wife Nicole as she was dying from a particularly aggressive form of cancer. It also won a National Magazine Award for the brutally honest storytelling about love and friendship, along with its graphic—yet important—details about daily life with someone with a terminal illness.

I feel adamant that you should read the essay first because it fills in the gaps present in Our Friend, the movie it inspired. Those gaps are not plot holes, but rather the wholly sanitized version of Nicole’s cancer. Matthew Teague writes in explicit detail about the symptoms experienced by his wife, the care she received, along with the physical and mental deterioration she suffered as a result of both the disease and the treatments. The struggles the Teagues faced made the fact that Dane basically gave up his life for 14 months to help out all the more impactful.

Casey Affleck and Jason Segel in the woods in "Our Friend".
©Gravitas Ventures

The film adaptation of Teague’s story features Casey Affleck as Matthew and Dakota Johnson as Nicole. While their performances are solid, it is Jason Segel as Dane who makes the movie worth watching. His dorky sincerity and selflessness give the story its emotional anchor, something desperately needed as things spiral out of control.

Going beyond the essay, the film decided to give a little more depth to the trio of friends, covering 15 years of their relationship. Rather than doing so chronologically, the film jumps from year to year with no ascertainable rhyme or reason. The copious use of title cards, chronicling the timeline by noting the months and years before or since Nicole’s diagnosis, provide the only way to keep up with where you are in the story. This gives an unnecessarily muddy organizational structure to the movie.

You probably expect Our Friend to be a tearjerker, and man does it deliver on that front. When it arrived at the final act, despite any annoyances with the overworked path it took to get there, I was sobbing. We are talking full-on-my-head-hurts-ugly-crying. In my case, I knew at least part of my response was because of how close to home it hit. It churned up some ugly, painful memories. I could have written this off to being just my personal baggage coming into play, but I virtually screened this film with three other friends who all had the same reaction, a testament to the film’s success in its portrayal of loss and grief. Before you watch, you might want to grab some tissues and pop an Advil—just in case.

I wish director Gabriela Cowperthwaite had taken a more direct path in constructing the story’s timeline, and I think being a little more true to life in telling the details of Nicole’s illness would have only served the narrative. What we get is an overly convoluted journey to a very sanitized story. Things manage to pull together in the final act, and in the end, it makes the movie worth watching. Just make sure you read Teague’s essay first.

Our Friend will be in select theaters and on VOD on Friday, January 22.

About Our Friend

Rating: R (Language)
Runtime: 2h 4m

OUR FRIEND tells the inspiring and extraordinary true story of the Teague family—journalist Matt (Casey Affleck), his vibrant wife Nicole (Dakota Johnson) and their two young daughters—and how their lives are upended by Nicole’s heartbreaking diagnosis of terminal cancer. As Matt’s responsibilities as caretaker and parent become increasingly overwhelming, the couple’s best friend Dane Faucheux (Jason Segel) offers to come and help out. As Dane puts his life on hold to stay with his friends, the impact of this life altering decision proves greater and more profound than anyone could have imagined.

As The Bunny Hops®