OUR FRIEND (2019)
Starring Jason Segel, Dakota Johnson, Casey Affleck, Jake Owen, Gwendoline Christie, Cherry Jones, Denée Benton, Isabella Kai Rice, Violet McGraw, Marielle Scott, Ahna O’Reilly, Azita Ghanizada, Sampley Barinaga, Reed Diamond, John McConnell, Jerome Spinx, Jason Bayle, Lane Alexander, Paige King, Jacinte Blankenship, Azita Ghanizada, Chandler Head and Veda Joy Martin.
Screenplay by Brad Ingelsby.
Directed by Gabriela Cowperthwaite.
Distributed by Universal Pictures Home Entertainment. 127 minutes. Rated R.
Terminal cancer is a devastating thing to deal with, for both the victims of the disease and those people around them.
In fact, it is so hard to deal with that Hollywood – on the rare occasions that they really scrutinize it on screen – generally does not focus on the person who is dying. Instead, cancer films tend to look at the people in their lives who must deal with the fact that someone that they love is perishing.
I guess I get it. I was around my grandmother when she was dying of cancer and it is a horrible, ugly, demeaning, appalling disease. It is not something that anyone would really want to experience unless they absolutely must – and certainly not something that they would want to watch for entertainment.
Yet to a certain extent this dynamic feels a little dismissive of the person who is going through most of the misery. We are only seeing their stories through the eyes of others, and often it is when the sufferers are at their lowest, most pathetic and needy ebb. It’s sort of like making them play a supporting role in their own deaths. Being there for a suffering person, while certainly selfless and noble, is hardly on the same level as actually experiencing the disease. Even when it is done realistically and tactfully, it can feel like the illness is being used as a bit of a screenwriter’s plot device.
As you can tell from the title of this based-on-a-true-story film, Our Friend is one of those films that is not about the person who has the cancer, but rather about a good friend who steps up for her – and also for her husband and children. He literally puts his life on hold for three years to be there for his friends in their time of need.
The friend of the title is Dane (Jason Segel), who met Nicole (Dakota Johnson) when they were part of a local theatrical troupe – she was the star, and he was in charge of lighting. (Actually, the film is a little unclear on this point; did they meet at the troupe, or in college, or was it even a college troupe? Either way, the dressing room and stage set up were a little upscale professional looking for any of these options.)
Dane asked Nicole out on a date right away upon meeting her, before finding out she was already married to Matt (Casey Affleck). (Dane falls in and out of love quickly a lot over the years.) He soon becomes best friend to the couple, and eventually their kids. The film floats back and forth between the past and the present to give a deeper look at the relationships of the three friends.
Years later, they are living in different cities when Dane learns that Nicole has terminal cancer. He comes to visit and help out for a weekend and ends up staying with them for three years. Dane gives up his job (which, granted, was a dead-end retail job), his home and his girlfriend (apparently, he wasn’t all that hung up on her, anyway) – just so that he can be there for Nicole and Matt and their two daughters and watch helplessly as she becomes more infirm and antagonistic.
Dane tries to bridge the gap when Nicole and Matt hit bumps in the road, particularly as Nicole gets sicker and starts to lash out. Dane also watches over the girls to see that they have as close to a normal childhood as possible in that situation. He is smart and selfless and is there for his friends even when they don’t always want him to be.
Our Friend was actually made in 2019 before finally getting a quiet home video release about two years later. This is probably not because it was considered a bad film – it is pretty good for the most part – but rather because its dark storyline is a bit of a hard sell. (The COVID pandemic may have slowed things down a bit too, but in the thick of the “shelter-at-home” period, there was a huge demand for new content.) It’s not an easy watch, but for those who do give it a chance, it does offer some rewards.
Copyright ©2021 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: March 30, 2021.