Casey Affleck and Dakota Johnson in Our Friend.

Our Friend is based on a true story first told via an Esquire magazine article—and Dakota Johnson, Casey Affleck and Jason Segal wow in this film about love, friendship, death and survival.

Gabriela Cowperthwaite directs what turns out to be a brutally honest, heartbreaking and schmaltz-free examination of a family going through the inevitable loss of their mother/wife (Johnson) to cancer, and the friend (Segal) who puts his own life on hold to help them through the crisis.

Johnson, a million miles away from her Fifty Shades days, is breathtaking as Nicole Teague, a mother of two who is dealing with the horrible disease. Her husband, Matt (Affleck), is often distant due to his job as a traveling journalist. In real life, Matt Teague is the person who wrote the Esquire piece on which the film is based.

Johnson and Affleck make a convincing couple in both good times and bad; both give performances that rank among the best of their careers. Segal—who seems to have given up on comedies for now—delivers a wonderfully sentimental performance as their dedicated friend who becomes an honorary member of the family when times get bad. He doesn’t abandon the situation when things get truly devastating.

Our Friend is an ode to bravery in the face of dying, the true love shared by a couple facing such peril, and friendships that bind forever. This movie earns its tears in a way that is truthful and heartening.

Our Friend is available via various streaming services. It is playing through Thursday, Jan. 28, at the Mary Pickford Drive-In Experience (68651 Grove St., Cathedral City).

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