Our Friend Review:Will Wrench Your Heart Into Smithereens

Our Friend(Amazon)

Starring Casey Affleck, Dakota Johnson, Jason Segel

Directed by Gabriela Cowperthwaite

Rating: ****

Our parents taught  us  how to live. But no one told us anything about how to die. When  it hits us we  are ill prepared,  with the focus sadly  on ‘ill’ most of the time. In Our Friend,a devastatingly moving study  of friendship, illness and death, when the big C hits Nicole(Dakota Johnson)   her husband  Matthew (Casey Affleck) has no clue  as  to how to  tackle the  critical crisis.

Enter  the couple’s  best friend Dane(Jason Segel) who is  no  sunshine spreader  like Rajesh  Khanna in Anand  and Bawarchi. Just a regular guy with huge family issues who needs  to be  with the couple to  help them  cope with the crisis. Dane’s character is  neither deified not shown to be a  victim of  a martyr’s  complex. He is just  somebody  who needs  to be somewhere at  this  point of time, no matter what it takes.

Our Friend is that rare  film about dying that doesn’t turn the characters  in the crisis  into creatures  of  self-pity. And for this, full credit must go to the original magazine story  by  Matthew Teague  on  which the film is  based. The story lends itself to myriad interpretations on  human relationships  and mortality.  The  director  Gabriela Cowperthwaite(I had  really liked her last film Megan Leavey which was again about  a human relationship, this time   about  a female soldier and  a  canine) is  not interested in ruminating on   death. She tackles more immediate  problems in the  family circle , like informing the children that their  mother is going to  die  in a  few months(the sequence, when it comes, will hit you hard  without trying). And alleviating  Nicole’s pain as  much as  possible.

I have  always  felt Casey Affleck to be  a better actor than his superstar-brother Ben. In Manchester  By The Sea which Casey also directed,  a death brought the family together. Here, in Our  Friend the  biological family is distanced  from  the  crisis on hand, as  three people try to  help one another in understanding what death entails, and what is its connection with  life.

 Right at the centre of this crisis  is  Jason Segel’s Dane. No strong-and-invincible pillar of strength, as such. Just suffering  with the family, looking after the house, cleaning  up the mess. He is specially wonderful with the dying woman’s two daughters, playing the buddy-dad to them so naturally , I  thought how wonderful it would be to see where Dane’s relationship goes  with two girls  after their mother’s death.

 Dakota Johnson  as  the  dying woman is very hard to look at, as she withers  in front  of our eyes. “Our friends  don’t even look at me any longer when they talk to me,” Nicole tells  her husband just before her end.

All through this horrible  nightmare  of a crisis,  Dan is there, just a hand away. When the end  comes, you will  sob with this  family. More than that,  you will celebrate the friendship that Dan shares with the couple. For those critics who think such a  friendship is impossible , I say, look around you. The heart  never stops beating as long as there is someone listening to it.

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