Photo | “Our Friend” – Black Bear Pictures
Maybe your business, your house or even you were part of “Our Friend” — starring Casey Affleck, Jason Segel and Dakota Johnson — when it was filmed on location all over Mobile and Fairhope in 2019. The drama is now out in the world and the performances are really excellent, especially the ones by all of those sparkling local extras. But seriously, this sad, sad story features incredible work from all three of the leads, and the script does a great job of telling the story of all three friends.
“Our Friend” is essentially a straightforward story told in an exceptional way, with the well-paced and well-written script by Brad Ingelsby (“The Way Back”) giving time to the characters in a deft and skilled manner. Johnson plays Nicole Teague, Affleck her husband, Matt, and Segel plays their friend Dane. Through perfectly constructed flashbacks, we learn that Dan and Nicole were good friends first when Dane was a stage manager in a play Nicole starred in, and Matt was the one who had to be brought into the friend fold as Nicole’s husband. Dane and Matt have terrific chemistry as friends, and it’s rare to see male friendship depicted at this level of drama.
These long-standing relationships play out as Nicole is diagnosed with cancer. In a crushing scene that takes place early in the film but late in the chronology of events, we must watch as the couple tells their daughters that her disease is terminal. It’s a tough drama that does not shy away from the really tragic, hard to watch stuff. It’s not merely a tear-jerker; it’s a tear-pumper, a tear-gusher. It’s on the level of “Terms of Endearment” or the weeper for which Affleck won his Oscar, “Manchester by the Sea.” He is as good in this as he was in that.
There aren’t any throwaway scenes; it is impressively constructed. When we are shown that Dane has trouble committing to a girlfriend or finding a real career, it means something when he later moves in with Nicole and Matt. We see Matt focusing on his career and important flaws in their marriage, and Nicole is not a saint. I thought the depiction of Nicole as a mom and the girls’ closeness and preference for her was a really moving, accurate aspect of the story, and it comes to a head in a terrific scene between Affleck and his brooding, heartbroken oldest daughter, played, again, excellently, by a young actress named Isabella Rice. Another incredibly strong and important scene.
Segel, who we know and love from heartfelt but comedic roles, is incredible in “Our Friend.” The time the film spends showing us his own struggles pays off in the depth of his character as he upends his life in New Orleans and moves in with his two best friends, caring for them and their children as Nicole’s life comes to an end. His performance puts him in the dramatic big leagues with his costar Affleck; they really show us some incredible stuff, together and apart.
Johnson, the reason the two male friends are together, gives a breakthrough performance. She is not just a sad lady. She is vain and manipulative sometimes; she is loving and giving; she is selfish and confused. I can certainly see why these actors took on these roles because they really are, as fictional would-be actor Tobias Funke would say, meaty parts.
“Our Friend” is so much more than how it sounds on paper — a wife and mother gets cancer and passes away. In real life, that event would involve countless emotions from many people and this film does an unfailingly good job of showing us that. Flashbacks and nonlinear narrative structures can be confusing or unnecessary, but “Our Friend” is a well-written, well-made story, and the script gives these actors so much with which to build their characters, and they truly do. Each scene contributes to our shared experience, and, even though it is hard to watch sometimes, “Our Friend” was a really outstanding drama. It would be so exciting, given the film’s local significance, if some of the actors got the award recognition they deserve for their roles.
“Our Friend” is playing at Nexus Cinema Dining and Spanish Fort Premier 14 Eastern Shore, and is streaming on Amazon Prime.
New This Week
“The Thing”: Presented by the Mystic Society of Rocky Horror, “The Thing” (1982) has one showing only, Jan. 30 at 9 p.m. In remote Antarctica, American research scientists are disturbed at their base camp by a helicopter shooting at a sled dog. When they take in the dog, it brutally attacks human beings and canines in the camp and they discover the beast can assume the shape of its victims. A resourceful helicopter pilot (Kurt Russell) and the camp doctor (Richard Dysart) lead the camp crew in a desperate, gory battle against the vicious creature before it picks them all off, one by one. Crescent Theater.
“The Little Things”: Kern County Deputy Sheriff Joe “Deke” Deacon (Denzel Washington) is sent to Los Angeles for what should have been a quick, evidence-gathering assignment. Instead, he becomes embroiled in the search for a serial killer who is terrorizing the city. Leading the hunt, L.A. Sheriff Department Sergeant Jim Baxter (Rami Malek), impressed with Deke’s cop instincts, unofficially engages his help. But as they track the killer, Baxter is unaware the investigation is dredging up echoes of Deke’s past, uncovering disturbing secrets that could threaten more than his case. Nexus Cinema Dining.
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