Our Friend is now available On Demand.
By I. Simon
Our Friend was a film that had my curiosity. It got a fairly positive reception coming out of TIFF back in 2019, and it has a decent cast to boot. Casey Affleck (sexual harassment allegations aside) and Jason Segel have both proven to be more than capable actors, and while I’m not super crazy about Dakota Johnson like many, maybe she just had bad luck with projects and could impress me here. Needless to say, I went into Our Friend more optimistic than not. Unfortunately, in the end, I couldn’t help but feel hugely underwhelmed, as I found Our Friend to be infuriatingly manipulative, almost like a Hallmark movie script directed like a generic indie.
With the exception of Segel’s fantastic performance, nothing about Our Friend remotely rings true, let alone works. Affleck, who delivered phenomenal performances in both Manchester by the Sea (which he won an Oscar for) and Light of My Life (his woefully underseen feature directorial debut from 2019, not counting the 2011 mockumentary I’m Still Here), feels like he’s on autopilot here. He’s doing the same shtick he did in the two aforementioned films, but without any of the nuance, weight, or emotional resonance. As for Dakota Johnson, she is simply not good in this and completely lacks the necessary dramatic and emotional weight needed for the role. I’ve found her to be an exceedingly limited actress up to this point, and my opinion of her has not changed.
The worst thing about Our Friend, though, is the writing. I discovered not long after watching the film that it was penned by the writer of last year’s The Way Back (which, coincidentally, starred Ben Affleck), Brad Ingelsby, and you can absolutely tell, because this has the same exact issues as that film. Much like The Way Back, Our Friend is far too focused on attempting to manipulate the viewer rather than earning its emotional beats. Nothing in regards to dialogue or character remotely feels authentic or true to life. It’s far too mawkish to the point where it comes across as cheap, and the film’s attempts at an unconventional structure only substantially harm it more. Director Gabriela Cowperthwaite attempts to add some emotional heft to the film, but she simply cannot get past the terrible writing.
In the end, outside of Segel’s fantastic performance, I found myself very disappointed by Our Friend. It’s a film that is far too focused on emotional manipulation and not rooted enough in truth. Despite Segel’s sincere efforts, I cannot recommend it.
I give Our Friend a C-.