Our Friend

Dakota Johnson and Jason Segel star in “Our Friend.”

The mansion of cinema has many rooms. Some, down in the basement or up in the attic can scare the bejeebers out of us when we enter them. But some, right on the main floor, just take our heart for a while and give it a good sound wringing, simply to make sure it still works the way it should.

“Our Friend” has all the hallmarks of a “dying girl” movie. We usually get one or two in that genre every year. This one is a little different, different enough that we do and we should take notice. This movie is extra special and worth the watching.

The pal in the title is the best friend of the couple. Jason Segel plays the friend who moves in with his two best friends, a married couple played by Casey Affleck and Dakota Johnson. The wife and mother, Dakota Johnson, has cancer. She will die. Her husband and her two daughters cannot cope very well with the situation they find themselves in. The pal moves in, abandoning his life, to do the wash, entertain the children and pour out a stream of love to the family in their most desperate hours, days and months of need. The movie is about Dane Faucheux, the friend, not about Nicole Teague, the woman with terminal cancer.

I have not seen a lingering death dealt with with such honesty and power as I have here. This is not a film for the faint of heart.

Grand acting by the three principle players. Affleck puts in a particularly nuanced performance as the overwhelmed, grieving husband but Johnson and Segel also have their moments.

Director Gagriela Cowperthwaite has only one other feature film on her list of director credits. Now I want to see her film about an army K-9 dog in Iraq, “Megan Leavey.” There is one brief scene with one of the daughters that I thought made the direction of the film raise to brilliance.

In the film, a wife in her 30s is snatched away from her family with all of the heartache and anguish that we could expect. In ordinary life, husbands most often predecease their wives. I don’t know if most guys could survive the experience.

The writing also helps to make the movie. The real life Matt Teague wrote a magazine piece that became the film. The character of the friend is illuminated to a degree that we seldom see. This friend elevated himself to hero status from a place in life that no one would expect such elevation. And we get to see it.

“Our Friend” runs for a long two hours and four minutes. This four-sawblade film has a strong R rating for subject matter and the worst language.

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