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Review: 'Our Friend' a sweet, low-key story about the value of friendship

Jason Segel stars alongside Casey Affleck and Dakota Johnson in well-told story about a guy who steps up when his friend is diagnosed with cancer

Adam Graham
Detroit News Film Critic

A touching story of friendship that doesn't rely on cheap sentimentality, "Our Friend" successfully avoids storytelling clichés while still managing to tug at your heartstrings.

This is a mature, honest film about sacrifice, showing up and the simple act of being there for somebody. In lesser hands it's a Hallmark movie, but director Gabriela Cowperthwaite doesn't take the easy road and the film is more rewarding for it. 

Casey Affleck and Jason Segel in "Our Friend."

The friend of the title is Dane, who's played by Jason Segel as a kind, lovable guy who's never quite discovered his station in life. He finds that purpose with Matt (Casey Affleck) and Nicole (Dakota Johnson) Teague, a married couple with whom he moves in once Nicole is diagnosed with a terminal form of cancer. 

Dane is no miracle worker, but he's around — around to help out with the kids (Matt and Nicole have two daughters), around to grab a beer with Matt, around to listen to Nicole. There's no love triangle weirdness or ulterior motives to his friendship. He's there, no strings attached, and being there is more than most people can manage. 

There's a casual, earned camaraderie between the three leads that feels natural rather than forced. Affleck's character is especially lived in; he's so tired and beaten down by the realities of his situation that at one point he's too tired to fight a guy who openly insults Dane. (Also, punch outs like that only happen in the movies, which "Our Friend" knows and understands.) 

"Our Friend" is based on a true story spelled out in "The Friend," a 2015 Esquire article written by Matt Teague which detailed his friendship with him and his wife's friend Dane. (Brad Ingelsby, who also penned last year's "The Way Back," adapted the story for his screenplay.) The story bounces around between 2000 and 2014, piecing together the origins of Dane's friendship with the couple, Matt's life as an overseas war correspondent and Nicole's diagnosis and treatment, and is given a kind, softhearted touch by Cowperthwaite ( "Blackfish," 2017's underseen "Megan Leavey").

It won't make a lot of noise, but good friendships usually don't. "Our Friend" is a quiet and respectful story that doesn't make a hero out of its subject or its characters, but simply pays tribute to someone who was there when he was needed. Sometimes, that's enough.

'Our Friend'

GRADE: B+

Rated R: for language

Running time: 125 minutes

In theaters and on VOD

agraham@detroitnews.com

@grahamorama