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Am I OK? traces two overlapping personal journeys. Jane (Sonoya Mizuno) is moving from Los Angeles to London with Danny (Jermaine Fowler), her boyfriend of eight years. Lucy (Dakota Johnson) is finally admitting she likes girls, and figuring out what that means for her as she mourns how late in life she’s come to the realization. But just as essential as either individual story is the sweet, poignant one they form together, of a friendship whose resilience is put to the test when it’s forced to evolve.
Best friends since childhood, Jane and Lucy have long since settled into their respective roles in each other’s lives. Jane is the proactive one, eager to dive into new adventures and drag Lucy along with her if necessary. Lucy is the more reserved one, safe in her comfort zone but grateful, sometimes, to be nudged out of it by Jane. They live in the same neighborhood, and when they aren’t grabbing drinks or dinner together — which they do frequently enough that Jane can recite Lucy’s order by heart — they’re texting all day from their jobs.
Am I OK?
Screenwriter Lauren Pomerantz and directors Stephanie Allynne and Tig Notaro have a finely tuned sense for the intimate chatter between longtime companions, from the random observations that Lucy and Jane trade over the course of a day (Lucy thinks a photo of some melted cheese looks like her old dog), to the amiable debates they seem to have had a million times before, to the deeper conversations that flow from vulnerable confessions to daffy jokes and back again.
Paired with the easygoing chemistry between Mizuno and Johnson, the dialogue grounds Am I OK? in love without pushing it toward sentimentality. Meanwhile, the friends’ sense of humor keeps things light, and gives the film an excuse to giggle occasionally about L.A. stereotypes like the woo-woo yoga instructor asking about their past lives. If Am I OK?‘s tone occasionally tilts too far toward comedy (including in an oddly staged climactic confrontation) its laughs land far more often than not, and bring us closer to the characters by inviting us to laugh with them.
The twin shocks to Lucy and Jane’s friendships hit during a single drunken night, which begins with Jane announcing to Lucy that she’s moving in six months and ends with Lucy tearfully coming out to Jane while curled up next to her in bed. At first, both women seem determined to proceed as they always have, with Jane half-jokingly swearing she won’t leave for London until she’s helped Lucy touch a vagina.
Am I OK? is more narrowly focused on Lucy’s path than Jane’s, though to be fair so is Jane. When a character suggests Jane might be so intent on solving Lucy’s problems because she’s avoiding her own, it feels like a line that had to be included because Jane’s internal psychology has been played too subtly otherwise. Her big move feels like fodder for her friendship with Lucy, rather than an arc Am I OK? seems interested in exploring for Jane’s own sake. But it’s a credit to both Pomerantz’s sharp, empathetic writing and Mizuno’s vivacious performance that Jane never feels like she’s merely a sidekick in Lucy’s narrative. She’s the hero of her own, and it’s just that Am I OK? isn’t that movie.
This one is Lucy’s, and hers is a tender one. It’s the relatively rare coming-out story to focus on a woman in her 30s, even though such situations are hardly unheard of in real life; Pomerantz notes she based the film on her own experience of coming out at 34. Am I OK? is sensitive to the specific anxieties that come with the timeline. Lucy cries that it might be too late, that she should have figured it out by now, that she feels stupid for not having done so when other gay people seem to have it sorted “when they’re, like, nine.”
The consistently excellent Johnson infuses Lucy’s very physicality with this sense of uncertainty. She falls off of furniture more than once, she shrinks in her chair, she clutches her arms around herself when she’s unsure what to do in front of her coworker crush Britt (Kiersey Clemons, so beguilingly warm that everyone is bound to walk away from Am I OK? similarly infatuated). But she displays a sly sense of humor, too, smirking to herself when no one’s around or pushing back at Jane’s well-intended bossiness with a firm tone that suggests both affection and exasperation.
By the time the film ends, that balance will shift and shift again. It would have been easy for Am I OK? to simply reaffirm Lucy and Jane’s friendship, to reassure them and us that their connection is rock-solid enough to withstand their impending 5,000-mile separation — or, alternately, to bid it goodbye, sending the women on separate paths toward self-fulfillment. Instead, Am I OK? sends the relationship on its own dynamic journey toward change, as both Lucy and Jane reassess the way they see each other, and the way they see themselves in relation to each other. The film celebrates their bond not with cheery platitudes about BFFs, but by showing us the work that goes into the “forever” part of that acronym.
And it ends with a resolution so humbly perfect, I was surprised at how suddenly it brought tears to my eyes. When Jane promises Lucy early in the film that “it’s not going to be that different” when she moves away, it sounds like a pleasant lie, and the events of the rest of the film confirm that it is. True comfort lies in the acknowledgement that everything is different now, and that that’s okay — that the change between them can be good, perhaps even for the better. We should all be so lucky to have long-term loves in our lives who adore us not for the people we used to be to each other, but for the people we grow to become together.
Venue: Sundance Film Festival (Premieres)
Production companies: Picturestart, Gloria Sanchez Productions
Cast: Dakota Johnson, Sonoya Mizuno, Jermaine Fowler, Kiersey Clemons, Molly Gordon, Sean Hayes
Directors: Stephanie Allynne and Tig Notaro
Screenwriter: Lauren Pomerantz
Producers: Jessica Elbaum, Will Ferrell, Erik Feig, Dakota Johnson, Ro Donnelly, Lauren Pomerantz, Lucy Kitada, Stephanie Allynne
Executive producers: Shayne Fiske Goldner, Royce Reeves-Darby, Alex Brown
Director of photography: Cristina Dunlap
Production designer: Christopher L. Brown
Costume designer: April Napier
Editors: Kayla M. Emter, Glen Scantlebury
Music: Craig Weren, Annie Clark
Casting directors: Marisol Roncali, Chelsea Ellis Bloch
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