Our Friend
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Our Friend

Our Friend there’s a telling moment in the third act of The Friend, a drama of terminal illness, where Dakota Johnson’s Our Friend character, nearing the end of her life, looks in the mirror and tells her husband, played by Casey Affleck, that she looks ugly. She bemoans the fact that people can no longer look at her and he provides reassurance, telling her she looks as beautiful as ever. It’s a sweet scene on paper but in the Blackfish director Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s fact-based yet sanitised film, it doesn’t ring true. Johnson, at her movie worst, is still supernaturally beautiful with clear skin and a cute pixie cut and the moment showcases one of the film’s biggest failings: an unwillingness to show just how horrifying cancer can be.

In the award-winning Esquire article from which the film is based, death is described as “grotesque” and “undignified” and the details are uncomfortably graphic – the author should know, he’s the husband who cared for his wife as she died of stomach cancer in their home. But up on screen it’s as prettified as it would be in a Lifetime movie, Cowperthwaite avoiding the opportunity to root her film in reality, a surprise given her background as a documentarian. The story jumps back and forth through a 14-year period, telling us the story of a couple, Matt and Nicole, as they befriend Dane (Jason Segel), who becomes a mainstay in their lives. When Nicole is diagnosed with cancer, Dane finds himself helping out with the house and their two children more and more until finally he moves in, initially for a two week period before gradually realising that he can’t leave them.

Duration: 124 min

Release:

IMDb: 7.3