Toronto 2019: Our Friend (Formerly The Friend)

The Friend. Courtesy of TIFF.

You’re going to need to pull out every Kleenex box you own because you’re definitely going to need it while watching Our Friend (formerly The Friend).

While the film may be inspiring, it’s also heartbreaking as we follow the Teague family.  The film goes back and forth in time as it follows Nicole Teague’s (Dakota Johnson) cancer diagnosis.  She doesn’t have long to live so best friend Dane Faucheux (Jason Segel) moves in with the family.  He doesn’t have to do this but he does.  After all, he sees the toll it takes on Matthew Teague (Casey Affleck).  Appropriately, he helps out where needed especially with their two children.

It is especially sad to watch the final days of Nicole’s battle.  You can’t help but cry as you watch what plays out on screen.  Even if it’s something we’ve seen play out in every single Nicholas Sparks adaptation, these are real people on screen.  You can’t help but feel some sympathy for them as Dakota Johnson elevates the film through her performance.  Even though I’m used to seeing Jason Segel act in comedies, there’s something about seeing him portray a real person in this drama.  It also shows that there’s more to his acting range.  Honestly, the film features what may very well be a career-best performance for Jason Segel.

I’m sorry to say that the film–again, inspiring as it may be–hits every single melodramatic note in the book.  This isn’t to take away the struggle that they go through.  Or any family who has a loved one battling cancer or lost their life to cancer.  Obviously, I feel for them with the battle that they face.  It’s unfair that anybody should have to go through this.  Luckily for Matthew, he doesn’t have to face it alone because Dane is there for both him and Nicole.  Dane is truly the best friend that any family would want.  How many people would just up and leave their job for several months to care for a loved one?!?  Not many, I suppose.  Yet this is exactly what Dane does!

Meanwhile, director Gabriela Cowperthwaite brings to the film only what a documentary filmmaker can bring.  The documentary background makes for a unique perspective when making a narrative feature.  By noticing the small things that another filmmaker could miss, it adds another layer to the film.

Films based on an Esquire article let alone a magazine article are a common occurrence in Toronto this year.  Another film is the much-anticipated Fred Rogers biopic starring Tom Hanks.  Meanwhile, Brad Ingelsby’s script is inspired by Matthew Teague’s article of the same name.  With elevated performances from Johnson, Affleck, and especially Segel, Our Friend (formerly The Friend) is going to have you in tears.

DIRECTOR:  Gabriela Cowperthwaite
CAST:  Jason Segel, Dakota Johnson, and Casey Affleck

The Friend held its world premiere during the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival in the Special Presentations program. Grade: 3.5/5

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.