“You were unsure which pain is worse – the shock of what happened or the ache for what never will.” – Simon Van Booy
I want to preface this review by saying I may unintentionally get overly sentimental about the subject matter that this particular film addresses. Much in the same way Marley & Me shows the process of losing a dog, Our Friend shows the arduous journey of a person’s final days on Earth. Like a Scorsese movie showing the violence up close and personal, like Marley & Me bringing that final vet visit a bit too close to home, Our Friend is a deep cut into losing someone spiritually and emotionally before actually losing them physically.
In the film A Monster Calls, the main character must face a feeling he wants nothing more than to bury deep and leave forgotten. That feeling is, “Am I a monster for wanting this to be over? Because when it’s over, they are gone forever.” As we learn with the lessons taught in that story, it’s only natural to want the pain, both theirs and yours, to simply be over and done with, even if that means them closing their eyes for a final time.
While Our Friend is about someone losing a battle to cancer, the idea of losing a person to an illness is universal no matter the specific affliction.
I’m learning more and more, sometimes almost daily, that empathy is a feeling defined by time and experience. It’s the reason a child can watch a movie or hear a story and not always relate to a character’s choices and feelings to an incident they might have endured. To empathize is to relate to another human, no matter the relationship. To relate means to have experienced something similar to what another is or has gone through much the same as you.
When I watch movies like Our Friend I am naturally reminded of losing my father. While it was a myriad of complications, particularly kidney failure, that ultimately ended his life, the pain of watching him and feeling helpless was very much the same as someone losing their life to cancer. Different scenery so to speak, same destination, unfortunately. This is a film that brings back those feelings to the forefront of my consciousness and holds nothing back. I’ll admit, I was expecting more of a 50/50 (Film starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt & Seth Rogen) approach to the subject of cancer. A serious side for sure but unquestionably funny and almost cathartic. Say 60% comedy, 40% drama. But noooo, Our Friend had to gut punch me as hard as it could, right from the very beginning to the very end, feelings of listlessness fully intact.
Our Friend is about a married couple and their close friend dealing with cancer and all that comes with it, before and after the inevitable end. It allows for moments of levity, particularly through the tragic but embracing performance of Jason Segel, while never forgetting that sometimes, people just need to be sad for a moment. In those cases the humor is set aside and his character becomes less comedy relief and more a shoulder to lean on and especially a shoulder to cry on. The married couple, convincingly paired together and torn apart, are played authentically and respectfully by Casey Affleck and Dakota Johnson.
Much like Matt (Affleck) realizing that losing his wife isn’t all about his own well being, we learn that while Nicole (Johnson) may be the focus of the film, Dane (Segel) is the heartbeat at the center of it all. He is their friend, their brother, their confidant, their family support system all rolled into one person who sees setting aside his own problems as nothing more than a necessary inconvenience in the pursuit of helping those he loves most.
Matt becomes refocused because of Dane. He begins to prioritize his family over the job he once thought to be the most important thing in his life. He tends to not only his dying wife but the two little souls they brought into the world as they watch their mother lose herself in every way imaginable. As she perishes Matt learns that no matter how dire their situation becomes, however guilty he may feel about it, a silver lining must be found, otherwise it will all feel pointless. That silver lining? To learn how to love one another when the matriarch has died. Through mutual support they learn that life beyond this chapter of their life is not only feasible but is potentially filled with so much beauty and possibility, if they only allow it to be.
I can’t stress this enough, Our Friend is a rough watch. It is a beautiful film with tremendous performances and priceless lessons to be learned, but it is heartbreaking, purely, dare I say mercilessly, but thankfully never maliciously. It will knock you to your knees but will happily hold your hand and allow you the opportunity to find your way back to your feet, hopefully stronger than before.
Rated R For: language
Runtime: 124 minutes
After Credits Scene: No
Starring: Jason Segel, Casey Affleck, Dakota Johnson
Directed By: Gabriela Cowperthwaite
Out of 10 Nerdskulls
Story: 8/ Acting: 9.5/ Directing: 8.5/ Visuals: 7
OVERALL: 9 Nerdskulls
Buy to Own: Yes. Currently in theaters and streaming on multiple platforms.
Check out the trailer below:
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