Am I OK?


Reviewed by: Jeremy Mathews

Am I OK?
"Stephanie Allynne and Tig Notaro are impressively attuned to the humanity of their characters." | Photo: Emily Knecht

It’s lovely when a movie defies your expectations in as delightful a manner as Am I OK?. We’re hard-wired to expect the story of a woman in her early 30s to be based around romance. We don’t expect her to still be coming to terms with her sexuality — that stuff is for high school and college coming-of-age fare. And if the story is, indeed, about someone coming to terms with her sexuality, we certainly don’t expect the central love story to be about the love between platonic best friends.

Dakota Johnson stars as Lucy, a 32-year-old with no direction in her career or her love life. Her best friend Jane, played by Sonoya Mizuno, serves as a bolder and more confident foil. In fact, she’s so successful that she’s just received a promotion to open a new office for her company in London, leaving Los Angeles and Lucy in the process.

This news comes at the worst possible time for Lucy. She has finally realised why she never wants to take her friendships with males to the next level. And it’s the obvious reason: She’s a lesbian. She greets this revelation with timidity and anxiety. Clearly, she thinks, this is something she should have come to terms with at least a decade ago. The idea of learning the dating scene and revealing the news to everyone in her social circle seems too daunting.

Lucy’s attempts to try lesbianism on and make sure it fits are fraught with uncertainty. When Jane takes her to club to meet a lady, it’s heterosexual Jane who ends up kissing a woman on the dance floor, just for fun. And when a co-worker (Kiersey Clemons) sends delightfully frustrating mixed signals, Jane doubts the wisdom of pursuing her.

In their debut feature as co-directors, Stephanie Allynne and Tig Notaro are impressively attuned to the humanity of their characters. Both women have a background in comedy, and naturally the film has plenty of laughs, but its magic is the way it pulls out the quiet details that give you knowledge and insight of the characters. There are some moments that are clumsily staged or have aesthetic issues, sure, but its loyalty to its characters never falters.

Johnson and Mizuno possess a great rapport that really sells the friendship. Johnson has a gift for quietly delivering quips or ironic jokes without overselling them, and Mizuno projects confidence without being a stereotypical powerful businessperson or boisterous free-spirit. The actresses are as adept and conveying the intimacy of friendship as they are at humour. The scene in which Lucy comes out to Jane, set on Jane’s bed after a night of inebriation, is a moving depiction of vulnerability and trust. (“Well, in high school you did want a Volvo.” “It’s the safest car!”)

Even when the film leans on storytelling conventions, the characters and insights it portrays feel fresh. Lauren Pomerantz’s screenplay couches this friendship within certain romantic comedy narrative formulas, yet still subverts the genre by turning Lucy and Jane’s love lives into subplots whose highs and lows aren’t inherently more important than their friendship with one another.

And that’s ultimately where the film leaves us: with a strong sense of how these two women give each other not just confidence, but a sense of place and direction.

Reviewed on: 26 Jan 2022
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Lucy and Jane have been best friends for most of their lives and think they know everything there is to know about each other. But when Jane announces she's moving to London, Lucy reveals a long-held secret. As Jane tries to help Lucy, their friendship is thrown into chaos.

Director: Stephanie Allynne, Tig Notaro

Writer: Lauren Pomerantz

Starring: Dakota Johnson, Sonoya Mizuno, Molly Gordon, Tig Notaro, Sean Hayes, Christine Nguyen, Jermaine Fowler, Whitmer Thomas, Jess Nurse, Christina Higa, Emma Pasarow, Mayank Bhatter, Patrick McDonald, James Hunter, Victoria Gale

Year: 2022

Runtime: 86 minutes

Country: US


Sundance 2022

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