Cancer drama shows power of unconditional love; swearing.
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A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
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 Endearment, The 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?
- In theaters: January 22, 2021
- On DVD or streaming: March 30, 2021
- Cast: Jason Segel, Dakota Johnson, Casey Affleck
- Director: Gabriela Cowperthwaite
- Studios: Universal Pictures Home Entertainment, Gravitas Ventures
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Friendship, Great Boy Role Models
- Character Strengths: Compassion, Courage, Gratitude, Integrity, Teamwork
- Run time: 124 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: language
- Last updated: July 25, 2022
Our Editors Recommend
Terms of Endearment
Glossy, funny, and packs a real emotional wallop.
Earnest but awkward coming-out story has edgy content.
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
Deeply moving, irreverent film about friends, cancer, life.
'80s tearjerker about friendship is emotionally intense.
The Bucket List
Bittersweet dramedy approaches death with humor.
Contrived yet effective family weepie.
A Monster Calls
Heartrending adaptation explores the enormity of grief.
Cancer patient questions his life in mature dramedy.
The Fault in Our Stars
Heartbreaking love story is a must-see for fans of the book.
For kids who love emotional dramas
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