‘Our Friend’ review: Cast and script go beyond melodrama

Relating to a movie’s success, it’s not all the time concerning the story that’s being informed however the way it’s being informed — and the expertise of those that are bringing it to life. Such is the case with “Our Pal,” a film which will at first evoke a response of “been there, noticed that” however finally ends up proving a young, enormously shifting retelling of a heartbreaking time within the lifetime of a household — and the very best pal who helped them by means of it.

Based mostly on a 2015 Esquire article by Matthew Teague, the film follows the true-life story of journalist Teague (Casey Affleck) and his luminous spouse, Nicole (Dakota Johnson), who’s identified with terminal most cancers. Greater than a yr later, as caring for the more and more sick Nicole and their lively younger daughters, Molly (Isabella Kai) and Evie (Violet McGraw), turns into an excessive amount of for Matt, his and Nicole’s outdated finest pal from faculty, Dane Faucheux (Jason Segel), strikes from New Orleans to quaint Fairhope, Ala. (the place the movie was shot), to reside with and help the Teagues.

The fantastic, well-observed script by Brad Ingelsby (“American Girl,” “The Means Again”) will not be all-consumed by the anguish of Nicole’s downward spiral however as a substitute successfully units it throughout the context of an event-filled 14-year interval, from her faculty days to her 2014 demise.

The movie absorbingly shuttles backwards and forwards in time, monitoring key moments within the trio’s lives that not solely illuminate their pasts however successfully put together us for who Matt, Nicole and Dane turn into, for higher and worse, when the going will get powerful. It provides as much as a skillful form of mosaic that pays highly effective emotional dividends. (I wasn’t crying, you had been crying.)

As succesful, earnest, loving and interesting as these three characters typically are, they’re additionally drawn with candor and dimension: Their flaws turn into as integral to the story as their strengths. Whether or not it’s the rudderless Dane’s bother committing to a profession or a lady, the newsman’s drive that takes Matt away from his household or singer-actress Nicole’s suspect marital constancy, these are advanced, unpredictable of us who we nonetheless drastically care about.

Anger, melancholy, jealousy, resentment and extra all vividly think about right here and assist the characters keep away from the form of “saintliness” that may slicken these kinds of tragic tales. Even older daughter Molly who, in contrast to her little sister, intuits the gravity of her beloved mom’s situation, strikes a verbal knife to the guts of her besieged dad that’s as painful as it’s completely actual.

Jason Segal and Dakota Johnson in the movie "Our Friend."

Jason Segal and Dakota Johnson within the film “Our Pal.”

(Claire Fogler / Gravitas Ventures / Common Photos Dwelling Leisure

But it’s the power of its solid, within the succesful fingers of director Gabriela Cowperthwaite (“Blackfish,” “Megan Leavey”), that really makes the movie such a poignant and profound expertise. Segel is splendidly empathetic because the devoted if flailing Dane, a person who’s higher at caring for others than he’s for himself. (A sequence through which an adrift Dane hikes the Grand Canyon is particularly stirring.) Because the ill-fated Nicole, Johnson impresses with affecting vary — from flirty, ebullient and adoring to stalwart, enraged and resigned; it’s a beautiful efficiency. However it’s Casey Affleck’s distinctive flip as Matt that reminds us why he gained an Oscar for his work in “Manchester by the Sea.” He brings such a visceral, fine-tuned sensitivity to his typically conflicted, overwhelmed and grieving character that it’s laborious to look away. He’s a knockout.

The estimable Cherry Jones additionally tears our hearts out in her few late-breaking scenes as a compassionate hospice nurse.

As nicely, there’s an evocative use of tunes by Led Zeppelin, R.E.M. and others, together with Steve Winwood, whose wistful traditional “Can’t Discover My Means Dwelling” couldn’t be extra touchingly positioned.

‘Our Pal’

Rated: R, for language

Operating time: 2 hours, 6 minutes

Enjoying: Begins Jan. 22, Vineland Drive-in, Metropolis of Business; Temeku Cinemas, Temecula; additionally on VOD

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