In Brief: A definite two-hanky — and for some of us, even four — movie.
We’ve all read the cancer note on Facebook and other social media. It says cancer sucks! And it does. Big time.
The movie Our Friend brings that post home in spades. However, unless you live — or have lived — in the world of a Matt Teague, his wife Nicole, his best friend Dane, and Matt and Nicole’s children, you have no clue how much.
The film is based on an article written by Teague, whose wife Nicole died of cancer at age 34. Though Our Friend spends too much time on the surface of this life-altering — and life-ending — event, it is also a very deep, rich and moving movie experience.
Teague is a journalist and, at one time, was a war correspondent. In his travels he had seen horrors that no one ought to see — ever. Nothing, however, was harder for him to watch than the two years it took his beloved wife to die.
Performances first then more about the movie. You can’t find a better or more perfect cast. Casey Affleck stars as Teague. Dakota Johnson is Nicole and Jason Segel plays Dane.
As always, Affleck is very good. However, he is getting typecast. Affleck does Matt with the same style and intensity as his Oscar and Golden Globe winning work in Manchester by the Sea. It’s a passionate — but not surprising — piece of acting.
The movie also gives Johnson another chance to show off her non-50 Shades acting chops. Her work in The Peanut Butter Falcon and in last year’s The High Note showed promise.
Our Friend proves that promise to be true.
The movie’s biggest surprise is the excellent work of Segel. Normally he gets stuck in stupid comedies like the TV show, How I Met Your Mother and the movie Sex Tape. This is a part that gives Segel a chance to stretch and he takes full advantage of the opportunity.
Segel plays Dane as a quiet and insecure loner with a heart of gold. He’s alone and lonely. Dane can’t find common ground with anyone or a place where his thoughts and feelings about something don’t sound forced or molded to be what the other person wants to hear. Relationships and intimacy are tough. They just don’t work for him. The Teagues do. They are more family to him than his family. The only time he feels “normal” is with them.
Dane shows up for a couple of weeks to help. When it’s time to go back to his life, no way can he leave. Dane knows they need him more than he needs a life of his own. The choice — as Segel perfectly plays it — is a no-brainer.
It’s terrific work from a very talented and — until now — underrated actor.
As noted earlier, director Gabriela Cowperthwaite and writer Brad Ingelsby — with help from Teague — clean up the story and skip a lot of the heavier parts of the article and what really happened as Natalie’s cancer moved from diagnosis to death.
You miss a lot of the horror of a dying woman drugged and struggling to maintain some sort of dignity while the cancer destroys her body and her life. I would have delved a little more into that aspect of the disease and gone a bit deeper into the events and the emotional rollercoaster that Teague, Dane and the children experienced.
Instead — and yes — the movie is sanitized. In the end, you won’t care. Not a bit. Or at least I didn’t.
Our Friend explains the how of Nicole’s dying in doses. It starts in the present, moves into the past and then back to the beginning, then to the middle and back, and then back again.
When it works, that style of filmmaking is amazing.
Sometimes it works with Our Friend, and sometimes it doesn’t. Again, you likely won’t care. This is a beautifully crafted film about the many dimensions of love, loyalty and dedication to family. It’s also a movie about death that — somehow — remains positive.
I’m not going to give you the line. You need to experience that one for yourself. But it is one of the most beautiful — and profound — lines I’ve ever seen in a movie. And it is the movie’s last line.
This one guarantees pulling out a hanky. The movie itself — for some of us — will require more than one. Usually these things are two hanky affairs. For Our Friend you may need four.
Director: Gabriela Cowperthwaite
Stars: Dakota Johnson, Casey Affleck, Jason Segel, Violet McGraw, Isabella Kai, Gwendoline Christie, Cherry Jones, Marielle Scott, Jake Owen
Rated R for mature themes and language. A tough one to watch sometimes but worth the emotional investment. Give this one a 4 1/2 on the Friday Flicks with Gary 0 to 5 scale.
You can stream this one on a number of streaming sources. It can also be seen in some theaters in areas where theaters are open.
Gary Wolcott has been reviewing movies on radio, television and newspaper since 1990. He believes — and this is an estimate only — that he’s seen something close to 10,000 movies in his lifetime. Gary is a lifelong fan of films and catches a couple of hundred movies a year. He believes movies ought to be seen on the big screen and not on the small screen in your living room or family room. While he loves movies, he also says reviewing film can be a real sacrifice and that he sees many movies so you don’t have to.
He is one of KXL 101.1 FM’s film critics and joined the news staff in 2014. Gary is also the film critic for Tri-Cities, Washington’s Tri-City Herald.