When Nicole (Dakota Johnson) is diagnosed with terminal cancer, the world she shares with her husband Matt (Casey Affleck) and two daughters is irrevocably altered. As the stresses of caring for Nicola and parenting their children take their toll, Matt’s best friend Dane (Jason Segel) offers to help. Putting his own life on hold, Dane’s arrival and selfless act of kindness makes a lasting impact on the family. Based on a true story and an award-winning article for Esquire penned by the real-life Matt, Our Friend is a quietly understated yet profound picture about love, life and loss.
Writer Brad Ingelsby (Mare of Easttown) infuses authenticity in a gentle, somewhat restrained script that is elevated by the three central performances. Affleck is a master of nuanced, often complex characters. With only a facial expression or the way he carries himself, the actor conveys the multitude of emotions Matt is experiencing as he endeavours to navigate his way through the pain, frustration and trauma of watching a loved one lose their battle. Johnson complements her co-star with captivating chemistry in every scene they share. Segel also brings a naturalistic charm to proceedings, embodying the various deep-rooted feelings he has for his two closest friends, while being forced to reflect on his own life. There is also assured support from the always engaging Cherry Jones.
Director Gabriela Cowperthwaite allows her cast to shine and adopts a brooding, meditative approach, although at times the pace is simply too leisurely. Running at just over two hours, the script would undoubtedly have benefitted from some cuts. That said, it’s a rewarding experience to spend time in the company of such well-rounded and believable characters, even if the unfolding of their journey is painful to watch.
There have been copious films about cancer and audiences are not offered anything new here. Viewers know how the story will inevitably pan out. What they are given, though, is a very real account of how illness impacts everyone differently as it ripples through family and friends. Nothing is sugar-coated and the cast and creatives should be praised for confronting this challenging and upsetting subject matter head-on. A tender, honest and empathetic depiction of grief and a study of friendship, Our Friend is as heartwarming as it is heart-wrenching.
Our Friend is released on Amazon Prime Video on 18th June 2021.
Watch the trailer for Our Friend here: