Parents' Guide to

Our Friend

By Tara McNamara, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 14+

Cancer drama shows power of unconditional love; swearing.

Movie R 2021 124 minutes
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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.

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