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‘Am I OK?’ Review: The Complexities of Queerness and Friendships

Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

Through comedic relief and raw emotion, Dakota Johnson nails the portrayal of the troubling realities that come with identity and friendship.

Am I OK? is a film that can almost be described as coming-of-age, but without the typical high school setting. The focus is on 32 year old Lucy (Dakota Johnson) who is discovering her queerness, and finding that her relationship with her best friend, Jane (Sonoya Mizuno), is in troubled waters. The film does a good job of showing that it’s not only teenagers who face these issues, that identity and friendship troubles are things that are also dealt with in adulthood. Even though we grow up, these complexities don’t go away.

Friendship Dynamics

Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

When the film began, I thought this was going to be a painful trope where the lesbian falls for her straight best friend. Thankfully this was not the case. Instead, Jane receives a promotion that requires her to move to London. Lucy has a hard time with this, provoking a wide range of emotions to spill. This includes coming out to Jane for the first time. The moment is sweet. Jane provides some great advice in telling Lucy that “there’s no timeline” when it comes to figuring out your sexuality. She’s so supportive of her that she vows to help Lucy find a girlfriend. These words of wisdom from Jane are impactful, not only to Lucy but to viewers who may feel similarly.

It’s established that Lucy and Jane are at different places in their lives. Jane works a corporate job that respects her and has a steady boyfriend, while Lucy is a painter with a lack of inspiration, so she works as a spa receptionist and can’t seem to let herself date. There’s a frustration to be had from both parties which is revealed in their huge fight scene. Jane feels that Lucy is too stuck in her comfort zone and wants more in life for her. Lucy thinks Jane is bossy and controlling. The biggest ouch was Jane using Lucy’s identity struggle as a pawn in the fight… not cool.

Of course, like any coming-of-age movie, the duo makes up in the end. Through their time apart, Lucy starts implementing change in her life. She’s dating and painting again. Even her diner order is different now… woah! The time apart made them stronger and become one with themselves. The film shows that, despite being adults, friendships don’t stop taking work. There are disagreements and life changes, but we shouldn’t give up on someone we love so easily.

Queer Narratives

Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

Following Lucy’s acknowledgement of her sexuality, the film consists of her trying to navigate her newfound queerness. It’s a struggle for her because she feels like she should’ve known she was a lesbian. She feels like she’s late. For Lucy, it was easier to keep it buried inside instead of figuring out her feelings. When she comes out to Jane, she struggles to answer the big question: What am I? Sexuality can be a confusing, difficult journey. There’s nothing or no one to tell you what you are. It is entirely up to you.

Lucy develops her first girl crush on Brittany (Kiersey Clemons), who works at the same spa as her, as a massage therapist. When we meet Brittany, she’s flirtatious with Lucy, but it’s unclear how she identifies. This is parallel to the universal confusion that queer women face when interested in someone: Is she flirting or friendly? Being new to the lesbian world, Lucy struggles to understand how Brittany feels about her. After a night at Lucy’s, the pair hooks up. Unfortunately, Brittany grows more distant than she was and eventually gets back with an ex-boyfriend. For Brittany, this was an experiment; for Lucy, this was a pivotal moment. Experimentation is a sensitive area for the queer community. It often leads to lots of hurt and confusion. My heart sank for Lucy.

Despite the outcome of Brittany, Lucy moves on. She starts allowing herself to casually date other women. My favorite part of the dating montage is the argument over who pays the bill. It’s nice to see Lucy in this new era by the end of the movie. In the beginning, she thought it was too late for her. Now, she’s accepting herself and is on a journey to find love.

Reception and The Making Of

Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

Am I OK? originally premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2022. The film received mixed reviews. Deadline gives its props to the film, stating Am I Ok isn’t a revolutionary, it is undoubtedly more refreshing, diverse and comical.” However, Cinema Solace does not entirely agree. They believed that the performances were flat and did not stand out. To sum it up, they state, ‘”Am I OK?” plays better as a forgettable Netflix movie than a theatrical experience.” Despite the mixed reviews, HBO Max and Warner Brothers bought the film. As of June 6th, the film is available to stream on Max.

The film is directed by comedian Tig Notaro and her wife, Stephanie Allynne. Being queer themselves, they relate to the story which is based on the screenwriter of the film, Lauren Pomerantz. In an interview with Script Magazine, Pomerantz describes the importance of curating this script. She wanted it to be more based on her own experience rather than the typical storylines. As she states in the interview, “You see a lot of those stories or you see the family story or the religious story or whatever, but you don’t really see this person just struggling inside.”

In my opinion, to have a story based on the person writing it creates more of a realness. It’s easier to relate to something when you know it’s coming from someone who has been through it. Nothing is artificial, it’s raw and it’s beautiful. Knowing that the writer behind the script truly lived it makes the story have a strong sense of authenticity and there’s more of a connection to be had with a queer audience.

Closing Thoughts

Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

When watching this film I appreciated the sprinkled humor that resonates with queer women. I have to give a nod to the joke that all lesbians know each other, an acknowledged stereotype within the community. One of the more relatable pieces of comedy was when Lucy started taking the ever-so-famous ‘Am I Gay?’ quiz and measured her ring and index finger. The jokes land well especially for queer women.

Aside from the humor, the more emotional moments manage to tug at the heartstrings because they carry such authenticity. The piece of dialogue that stands out amongst the rest occurs during Lucy and Jane’s hike. Lucy describes how she feels about coming out: “I don’t want to be a thing that’s different. I don’t want to have to tell everybody this big thing. I know it’s fine and that no one cares, but I care.” By far, this is the most beautifully written and relatable piece of dialogue spoken. These are the exact words I, and probably so many other queer people, have said to themselves countless times before. The delivery from Johnson is perfect and I applaud Pomerantz for her writing. This was, by far, the most emotion-provoking moment in the film.

Am I OK? is a refreshing take on the typical coming-of-age story. Regardless of age, we’re human. We go through hardships with best friends. We wonder who we are and what we like. This doesn’t stop just because we grow up. The film truly shows that in life…there is no timeline and it is never too late.

Written By

I am a New Jersey native going to school in Boston. I am majoring in English with a Public and Professional Writing concentration. I have recently joined Trill Mag as an intern for their Entertainment team.

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