The Friend (Gabriela Cowperthwaite 2019) USA

Reviewed by T Romaine. Viewed at AFI Film Festival.

The Friend Poster

The Friend is a subtle film about family. Not the family we are born to but the family we create. The plain title might make it hard to stand out in the sea of films trying to get an audience. It will be disappointing if more people do not get a chance to see it. In this era of division and excessive cruelty directed at others with the cloak of anonymity online, it is a good story to get comfort from if the viewer can suspend their cynicism.

The film jumps timelines to show the evolution of the friendships featured between Nicole (played by Dakota Johnson), Dane (played by Jason Segel) and Matthew (played by Casey Affleck). They meet in their youth while exploring their respective careers and trying to find their identities. Nicole is an actress and social butterfly. We later see how those types of superficial relationships fall away when one is on need or struggling. As the adage goes, “you find out who your friends are”. Matthew acutely predicted “Dane will be the last one here” as Nicole and her family deal with her terminal illness. Dane jumps around to different jobs which makes him the most relatable character as most people do have jobs in many fields rather than sticking with career for life as previous generations did. But Dane’s jobs and girlfriends are dead ends. He has yet to find the life that fulfills himself. His greatest fulfillment will come from helping everyone get through this tragedy with humor and selflessness. Matthew is a reporter who moves up the career ladder becoming an absentee father and husband to Nicole. He makes amends by staying by her side until the end and he must learn to take on her role in the family.

The film is shot in warm colors and the scenes are well composed. In the saddest moments, it is still palatable and attractive which leans the film towards melodrama. Life’s hardest moments do not ever have soft, Tungsten lighting. The film could be enjoyed by families as well. It does not challenge the viewer to be uncomfortable but rather to have good cry. Similar films are The Big Sick (Michael Showalter 2017) and The Fault in Our Stars (Josh Boone 2014). The moral of the story is be a good person and help others when they are down. Your reward is internal.

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