TIFF ’19: The Friend

Based on the Esquire article of the same name, The Friend recounts the real-life journey of Matthew Teague during the death of his wife (who also serves as an executive producer on the film). After his wife, Nicole (Dakota Johnson) has been diagnosed with cancer, Matthew (played by Casey Affleck) struggles to balance meeting her needs and raising their daughters. Seeking to help, close friend to the family Dane (Jason Segal) offers to move in for a short stay to help Matthew get back on his feet. However, as time marches forward, his temporary gesture extends into an indefinite living arrangement at great personal cost to Dane. Steadfast in his commitment to their family, Dane never waives in his love of the Teagues and the lines between friendship and family begin to blur.

Beautifully directed by Gabriela Cowperthwaite (Blackfish), the film is often stunning in its broad cinematography yet balanced out by the intimate performances of its cast. Known for her experience in the documentary world, Cowperthwaite manages to translate her ability to tell true stories into her style that gives the film an authentic feel. Throughout the piece, stars Affleck, Johnson and Segel have excellent chemistry that reveals the complicated layers of their various family-friend relationships.

As one might expect, The Friend shows the value of relationships, especially during complicated circumstances. As their lives change, Dane moves from old friend of Nicole to bromance with Matt and, eventually, to part of the family. Furthermore, although Matthew, Dane and Nicole are all held in reverence by the script, none of them are purely angelic or saintly, with each revealing their own secrets and recklessness at various points within the film. While Dane may be the titular Friend, all three characters need each other to hold them up at various points in their lives.

The Friend is currently playing at the Toronto International Film Festival. For more screenings, click here.

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