If nothing else, Our Friend, will punch you in the throat from the opening scene; it will continue to tell a human story almost too real, and too common, from the perspective of a best friend who helps combat the absolute homewrecker: cancer. Based on the article titled, "The Friend," director Gabriela Cowperthwaite's (
Blackfish) latest sets out to make the audience feel what the Teague family went through, and highlights the extraordinary efforts of their loyal friend, who is the glue that holds everything together. The film is not without problems, the back-and-forth timeline can make the plot a bit convoluted, and the story itself is just another high-level exploration of a disease that has probably touched almost everyone in some way. But through all of the amplified sadness, comes a heartwarming story of friendship, family, life, and death. In early 2013, Nicole Teague (Dakota Johnson), is diagnosed with cancer. Her husband, Matt (Casey Affleck), a NY Times reporter who spends much of his time overseas, is now tasked with taking care of his wife, his children, and trying to maintain a sense of normalcy for the family. Overwhelmed and outmatched, the couple welcomes the help of their best friend, Dane (Jason Segel). Dane comes to the rescue, helping out whenever and wherever he can. What was meant to be a few weeks stay to get the Teague family back on their feet ends up being infinitely longer. Nicole is losing her battle, and Dane must stay strong. Our Friend is told through a series of flashbacks and flash forwards, using the former to tell the backstory of its characters. We see how Nicole and Matt fall in love, we see them meet Dane, and most importantly, we see the build up towards the diagnosis. Although there is some essential backstory, it feels forced in some ways. Some of these flashbacks are more filler than anything, and the film would have been better served exploring Dane's "present-day" character a bit more. The emotional story is complimented by good acting and a tangible, overshadowing feeling of despair throughout. Segel's performance is wonderful, as his character is a metaphorical guiding light to the finish line. He provides humor when needed and does so subtly when things are tough. There might not be a better actor to cast for this role. Many scenes in the film are inserted with one purpose: to make the audience cry. Although many of these moments are tremendously sad, it starts to get a bit predictable and slow. Fortunately, the way the film is shot provides an eerie feeling that the viewer is right in the room watching everything transpire. This makes many of the scenes uncomfortable to watch, but also gives the viewer an artificial sense of responsibility towards these characters. As an emotional tear-jerker, Our Friend triumphs. It may be stale at times, and the story may not be perfectly sequenced, but the real human feelings are apparent. This is a deeply unnerving story rooted in love and hardship, and the unsung heroes in our lives that make everything a little bit better. It may hit a little too close to home for anyone who has gone through something like this, but it is an emotional rollercoaster worth experiencing.
All Movie Guide - Travis Norris