Life sometimes does not exceed forty years. Nicole suffers from a dazzling cancer which leaves her only a few months. Lying on her bed, she addresses her husband: it is time to announce to the two little girls that their mother is going to leave. “Our Friend” goes back. Some time earlier, they just moved in. Nicole is an actress and Matthew is a journalist. His articles are noticed, he begins to write for the “New York Times” and to be absent more and more often. In the couple’s life, a new friend, Dane, will take a special place. He takes care of the children and helps Nicole with the daily chores. Then, when illness sets in, Dane moves to a corner of the house to support Nicole and Matthew in this ordeal.
The choice of friendship
“Our Friend” tackles themes that are too readily avoided: declining health and leading loved ones into exhaustion, the immense loneliness of “caregivers”. In the early days of the diagnosis, friends flock to offer help. They are becoming rarer and rarer as the poison progresses. In a beautiful sequence, Matthew drives through an ordinary town in Alabama. Under the dazzling sun, this evidence strikes him: at home, indefatigable death knits his work; outside, life continues its course in imperturbable indifference. In the end, only Dane will remain.
Why is this Stations of the Cross imposed on himself? Perhaps he finds his account in this diagram. Around him, so many people his age have started families or built careers. He does not get rid of the uncertainties and hesitations of adolescence. Nicole’s illness will give meaning to Dane’s existence, while devouring her. However, as its title suggests, this story describes above all a feeling: friendship. Dane, whatever the reasons, made the choice to accompany his friends. Because friendship, unlike brotherhood, is a chosen bond. And we leave this film thinking that it is up to each of us to also make this choice.
The labyrinth of a memory
A linear structure would have dragged this narrative into the grim dead end of the disease. The film will take tortuous paths, leaps into the past, leaps into the present. By slaloming through time, Gabriela Cowperthwaite imprints on her work breaths, moments of light and life. She also traces the labyrinth of a memory, so much do these sequences shine with the broken brilliance of past moments. Impression reinforced, between each chapter, by the staccato of fingers running on a keyboard. The screenplay is indeed inspired by an autobiographical article by Matthew Teague.
“Our Friend” is in a line of contemporary dramas that slide to a peaceful rhythm: the recent “Pieces of a Woman” by Kornel Mundruczó; or again, five years ago, the powerful “Manchester by the Sea” by Kenneth Lonergan which, like “Our Friend”, staged Casey Affleck. These films overwhelm us with their very tranquility. However, we may wonder: why cry in the cinema when the present already imposes its share of sadness on us? Because in these melodramas, we do not cry over our own fate but over that of others, with a healthy empathy towards people we do not know, who do not exist, and who nevertheless become, for about two hours, “our friends ”.
by Gabriela Cowperthwaite
With Dakota Johnson, Casey Affleck, Jason Segel.
2:04 am On Amazon Prime.