Jason Segel's Great Performance Can't Save 'Our Friend' from Feeling Sanitized Directed by Gabriela Cowperthwaite
Starring Dakota Johnson, Jason Segel, Casey Affleck, Violet McGraw
Published Jan 18, 2021In 2012, Nicole Teague was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. In 2013, her friend Dane Feaucheux moved in with her and her husband, Matthew, to help. In 2014, she passed away. In 2015, Matthew wrote an award-winning article about the experience for Esquire that explored the trio's complex relationship amid the relentless, escalating indignities of dying. In 2021, Gabriela Cowperthwaite turned that article into Our Friend — a film that's well-acted, but nonetheless sanitizes these indignities.
Dakota Johnson as Nicole, Casey Affleck as Matthew, and especially Jason Segel as the titular friend, Dane, all do great work here. Segel's selflessness in leaving behind everything that constitutes an adult life to help his friends is not often seen in life, let alone in film. The extent of the trio's relationship is intimately and economically depicted in the prologue, with Johnson and Affleck deciding how they will tell their kids that the former is dying, while Segel sits outside on the porch entertaining and distracting them.
Unfortunately, the rest of the movie jumps around a 15-year period; while individual scenes accomplish their goal of shading these characters and their bond, the overall result is more erratic than grounding. The result leaves viewers unsure of the character's attitudes towards each other in any given scene; this is most easily noticed with their daughters, who don't appear to age.
Anyone who has witnessed a loved one suffer through cancer will recognize many scenes here: various hospital rooms, impossible bucket lists, a parade of care packages, and more than a few friends who fall out of the picture, unable to deal with the decline.
When compared to Matthew's gruelling and evocative writing, however, Our Friend doesn't quite capture the physical and emotional tolls that cancer takes on an individual. Instead, this is weepy melodrama that doesn't capture the raw honesty of its source material. (Gravitas Ventures)