When Gabriela Cowperthwaite read the Esquire article on which her new feature, The Friend, is based, she found something she wasn’t expecting—a new way into talking about grief that she hadn’t seen before. “What it was, was not talking directly about grief, but focusing on the thing that keeps you tethered,” Cowperthwaite said, sitting down at Deadline’s TIFF Studio. “You know, everybody always says, when you go through these things, ‘You’re not alone when you’re sad, or when it’s dark.’ And it’s like, ‘Oh, but you are.’”
Starring Jason Segel, Dakota Johnson and Casey Affleck, The Friend tells the story of Matthew Teague (Affleck), who upon learning that his terminally ill wife has six months to live, enlists his best friend, Dane Faucheux (Segel), as a live-in source of support. Putting his own life on hold to move into the Teague home, Dane’s impact on the family is much greater than anyone could have anticipated, as the lines between friendship and family begin to blur.
“It was clearly a story about a tragic loss, and that was very moving, but also a story of real friendship, and what at first seems like selflessness. But then you start to realize that nothing is completely selfless,” Segel said, in conversation with Cowpertwhaite, Johnson and Teague. “But this web of support and need that the three had with each other was really interesting to me.
An executive producer on the film, Teague experienced both gratitude and frustration when his best friend moved into his home, he explained—“gratitude to my friend Dane and the sacrifice that he made to come help us through this hard time, frustration with my own unpreparedness for what it meant to face mortality.”
“I felt just sort of culturally unprepared, that we don’t talk that often about normal, everyday death,” he added. “We talk about heroic deaths and dramatic deaths, but very rarely just what most people go through.”
For their part, the stars of The Friend had their own experience of gratitude, in relation to the pic. “It’s like a glimpse into a life,” Johnson reflected. “It’s somebody Matt has let us in, in the most beautiful way, and I really, really loved every character in the movie.”
For more from our conversation with the executive producer, director and stars of The Friend, check out our video above.
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