Jason Segel is a very likeable actor. He played Marshall Eriksen in the comedy series ‘How I Met Your Mother‘, where his character was quite underrated, but at the same time, highly endearing. He takes it up a notch in Gabriela Cowperthwaite‘s ‘Our Friend‘, where he plays the equally amiable Dane. Unlike the popular Marshall, Dane is lonely and longing for love. Just when things seem to be moving ahead with a new girlfriend, he finds out about his friend Nicole’s cancer diagnosis, which takes him from New Orleans, Louisiana to Fairhope, Alabama. Nicole (Dakota Johnson) lives with her husband Matt (Casey Affleck) and their two daughters. Dane decides to stay with the couple to help the family through the final stages of Nicole’s cancer. From chef to nanny to friend, he plays every role in the house while they prepare for her eventual demise. Matt leans heavily on Dane during this period, not just for his help around the house, but also for emotional support. While ‘Our Friend’ is a fairly realistic portrayal about how cancer can break a family, at the same time it also portrays a beautiful tale of friendship.
A bittersweet tale of loss and friendship
Even though this film is based around the terminal illness of one of the primary characters, Gabriela Cowperthwaite does not use ‘cancer’ as a plot driver here. She gets real about the complexities of the illness. The result is not white-washed by character arc progressions, rather it simply shows how the disease comes to impact the family. Instead, the filmmaker makes Dane the central character of the film, who is holding the family together. This much is evident from the essay written by the real Matt Teague, upon which this film is based. The movie sticks to its original story, without getting too detailed about the severity of the disease, and even manages to drive the story ahead despite its lack of ‘happily ever after’.
Jason Segel is the real MVP
Casey Affleck can pull himself together in a film about loss, something that even won him an Oscar for ‘Manchester By The Sea‘. While his character is pretty stoic throughout, we can see how Nicole’s cancer takes a toll on Matt as she enters the final stages of her life. He goes from being a solid provider for his family to a helpless husband and father, only to be held together by Dane. Jason Segel adds his own charisma to this already lovable character, making Dane appear sincere and devoted. It’s easy to question Dane’s motive’s without really seeing the film, but Jason Segel’s heartful performance throws all those doubts from your mind.
Too many time jumps to follow
This film may not have many flaws but one of its shortcomings is the decision to have a non-linear storyline. The story jumps into the past and back to the present without any real connect, which makes it difficult to follow at times. It doesn’t help that the characters seem to look exactly the same throughout these time jumps, barring Dakota Johnson’s Nicole, who in the later years is shown in a bob cut to imply her chemotherapy treatment.
WATCH OR NOT:
Our Friend is not the ideal film to see on Valentine’s weekend, especially if you’re looking for something fun and romantic. But it’s a feel-good watch despite its sorrowful story and the performances of Jason Segel and Casey Affleck make it worth the trip to the theatres.