A familiar formula doesn’t stop the actors’ winning portrayal from breaking through.
(This review is part of our coverage of the 2022 Sundance Festival)
It’s safe to say that Dakota Johnson is the queen of Sundance this year, with starring roles in two festival faves. Of the two — Cooper Raiff’s sophomore feature Cha Cha Real Smooth being the first — Tig Notaro and Stephanie Allynne’s directorial debut Am I OK? is the less memorable. Nonetheless, it’s a relatable and low-stakes film very much worth watching.
Lucy (Johnson) and Jane (Sonoya Mizuno) are longtime best friends who know just about everything about each other. This is exemplified in the opening scene at a diner when Jane recites Lucy’s order word-for-word. They’re each other’s foils. Jane is the more outgoing and adventurous one who often has to drag introverted Lucy out of her comfort zone. One night, after Jane reveals that she’s received a big promotion at work that will take her back to her hometown of London, Lucy has news of her own — she might be a lesbian. Jane, the great friend that she is, is Lucy’s number one cheerleader. She makes it her goal right there and then to get Lucy some sexual experience before leaving despite Lucy’s protests.
The major changes in their lives prove to be a challenge for their friendship. After a night out at a lesbian club, they inevitably have a falling out. They drift apart, continuing their journeys separately. This leaves Jane to spend more time with her co-worker Kat (played by the always hilarious scene-stealer Molly Gordon). Meanwhile, Lucy explores her sexuality and feelings for Brittany (Kiersey Clemons), a coworker unsure of her attraction to women, without Jane to text for support.
Am I OK? is elevated by the magnetic chemistry between Johnson and Mizuno, who seize the chance to show off their comedic chops. Johnson imbues Lucy with naturalism and nuance. It makes the character so relatable enough it’s difficult not to root for her as she comes of age. Mizuno, who has consistently delivered stellar performances yet continues to fly under the radar, is unsurprisingly charming in her role as a sometimes unlikable character.
Notaro (who also makes a cameo as a guru at a wellness retreat) and Allynne–likely drawing from their relationship–and working with Lauren Pomerantz’s witty screenplay inspired by her friendship with producer Jessica Elbaum, do well at crafting a heartwarming slice-of-life tale filled with funny moments despite having a predictable ending. It’s the rare coming-of-age narrative centered on a thirty-something-year-old woman who is just figuring life out. Am I OK?, however, never explores many of its ideas and subject matter beyond the surface. As a result, the work oftentimes feels safe and one-dimensional, specifically when it comes to exploring Lucy’s struggle with finding herself. It would’ve been nice to have more time spent focusing on her exploring her sexuality and becoming friends with other Queer people instead of glossing over it.
[T]he compelling dynamic between its leads and its natural portrayal of the highs and lows of coming to terms with who you balance out the flaws.
On the other hand, the film is propelled by a killer soundtrack. Buoyed with needle drops from Lucy’s playlist fittingly titled ‘All the Feelz’, it includes the likes of Phoebe Bridgers, Sleater-Kinney, Arlo Parks, and St. Vincent. Vincent, aka Annie Clark, pulls double duty, scoring the film with Craig Wedren. The result is an undeniable vibe. What’s not to like about that?
Am I OK? is an imperfect film that uses a familiar and straightforward formula. As a result, it struggles to find its footing in the first half. Nevertheless, the compelling dynamic between its leads and its natural portrayal of the highs and lows of coming to terms with who you balance out the flaws. Overall, Am I OK? is a sweet and comforting story that celebrates female friendship and is sure to make many people feel seen.