Our Friend

Movie review by
Tara McNamara, Common Sense Media
Our Friend Movie Poster Image
Cancer drama shows power of unconditional love; swearing.
  • R
  • 2021
  • 124 minutes

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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

The film is a demonstration of profound friendship. Love isn't just feeling, it's doing. The point is also made that people are more than the job or money they have. Themes include compassion, courage, gratitude, integrity, and teamwork.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Dane is selfless, generous, supportive, and compassionate. He's an example of what it looks like to truly be there for a friend. Representation includes supporting characters of color.


Verbal hostility. Smacking and shoving. Storyline deals frankly with terminal illness and loss; characters are sad, and a woman is shown in her final stages of life: frail, in excruciating pain, and in the throes of psychosis.


Several affectionate scenes between a married couple, including showering together (nothing explicit shown). A character's dating life is a recurring topic. Kissing. Joke about phone sex.


Strong language throughout, including: "ass," "a--hole," "boobies," "dips--t," "goddamn," "nutsack," "s--t," and several uses of "f--k," including "Jesus f--king Christ."


T-shirt with a particular restaurant name on it is seen several times.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Beer is served with dinner and in social situations. Joke about someone smelling like cigarettes. Prescribed medications are shown and discussed throughout, but nothing is taken for the sake of pleasure. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Our Friend is an emotional friendship drama based on the true story of a young woman named Nicole (Dakota Johnson) -- a wife, mother, and friend -- who's dying of cancer. It's an unflinching examination of terminal illness and shows Nicole in her final stages: frail, in excruciating pain, and in the throes of psychosis. Viewers also see earlier times in her life, including the trajectory of her marriage to Matt (Casey Affleck), from affection and sudsy shared showers (nothing graphic shown) to contention, matters of infidelity, and ultimately his role as an exhausted nurse to her. But through it all, love is always present. While the story is focused on adults, Nicole and Matt's 10-year-old daughter expresses her anger at the situation. It's morose, but the light is the couple's extraordinary friend, Dane (Jason Segel), who shows up to help temporarily and ends up staying for more than a year, giving up his own life to help them through a terrible time. Swearing ("s--t," "f--k," etc.) permeates the film, and characters drink beer, but the biggest issue here is that a story about losing a parent may be scary and too emotionally taxing for kids.

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What's the story?

In OUR FRIEND, married couple Matt (Casey Affleck) and Nicole (Dakota Johnson) Teague learn that Nicole's cancer is terminal. Their best friend, Dane (Jason Segel), decides to use his vacation time to pitch in and help them out. Realizing that his friends are in over their heads, he moves into the laundry room and becomes a full-time caretaker for the couple, their two daughters, and the dog. 

Is it any good?

When you see "written by Brad Ingelsby" on any future movie posters, be assured that you're about to take a well-crafted, authentic, emotional walk in someone else's shoes. As he did in American Woman (2019) and The Way Back (2020), the screenwriter turns away from the action crime dramas of his past (Run All Night, Out of the Furnace) to zoom in how tragedy affects the human condition, particularly parents and spouses. This journey, like the prior two, blazes an empathetic path to understanding the pain and eventual personal growth that results from loss in unthinkable situations.

What makes Our Friend different is that the journey isn't solo. Matt and Nicole share a best friend from their college days who is, truly, the best of us. At the expense of his own life, Dane moves in to help bear the responsibility. The way in which everyone accepts this suggests that Matt, Nicole, and their circle don't believe that Dane's situation -- as a retail store manager and boyfriend -- holds much value, since they allow him to make such a sacrifice. Some even seem to see him as a loser, a man child who never grew up./ And viewers may initially think that, too. But slowly we learn more about him and why he'd make such an epic commitment. That shifting perspective can create a feeling of being unmoored: Whose story is this, anyway? Is it Matt -- who eventually writes about the experience? Or Nicole -- who's certainly the central figure? Or Dane -- the title character, whose personal experience gets the least screen time and whose true feelings are the most distant? Combined with the jumps back and forth in time, the film sometimes feels drifty. It's a technique that works well in the TV drama This Is Us, but in a film, it's not as effective. It does, however, provide insight into how terminal illness affects a family and offers an unforgettable, real example of pure human love.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how unconditional love is demonstrated in the context of friendship, romance, and within a family. What role does it play in Our Friend?

  • How does Dane exhibit kindness, selflessness, and sensitivity? Why are these characteristics important to see in a male role model? How does Dane also demonstrate important character traits like compassion and teamwork? Why are these important character traits? 

  • Why do you think is Hollywood enamored with movies about terminal illness (Terms of EndearmentThe Art of Racing in the Rain, 50/50, The Fault in Our Stars, etc.)? What makes that subject compelling to producers -- and audiences? 

  • How do different characters cope with Nicole's terminal illness? Do you think their reactions are realistic or idealized? Why do Nicole's friends start to disappear from her life? How can we deal with our fear or awkwardness of something scary happening to a friend or family member?

  • What can we do for our friends to be helpful in tough times? When have you gone out of your way for a friend -- or a friend gone above and beyond to be there for you? 

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love emotional dramas

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