“AM I OK?” is one of the most tender and charming films of the year | REVIEW

Screenwriter Lauren Pomerantz and co-directors Tig Notaro and Stephanie Allynne’s “Am I Okay?” is an honest and well-written work about two best friends in their thirties, both of whom experience life-changing moments. Lucy (Dakota Johnson) and Jane (Sonoya Mizuno) have been besties for years. They know one another inside and out and can predict the other’s every beat and emotion. The two keep no secrets, save for one. Lucy is indeed keeping something from her friend, hiding the fact that she is a lesbian.

Pomerantz’s script and Notaro and Allynne’s direction are entirely in tune with Lucy’s uncertainty in navigating her own feelings of self-worth and fears regarding her sexuality. The women who created the film have been through similar situations in their own lives, and it is this honesty that makes the film special. Through Lucy and her struggles, “Am I Okay?” finds its humanity. Fear of not being accepted as oneself is common in the LGBTQ communities, especially in the America of 2024. While this film pulses with humorous sensibilities, it takes its subject of acceptance quite seriously.

The two friends’ lives are shaken up by Jane’s announcement that she will be accepting a promotion and moving to London, a declaration that throws Lucy into a deeper tailspin of self doubt. For her, this is too much change at once.

After this shocking revelation (and the fact that Jane will not leave her alone about getting a boyfriend), Lucy finally comes clean about her sexuality, although she struggles with coming to terms with it at thirty-two. As she confesses to Jane, “I should have figured this out by now. It is a sweet moment, as the two sit on Lucy’s bed, having drinks as she nervously comes clean. Jane’s non-judgemental and immediate acceptance speaks to the strength of their friendship. There is no judgment between them and not too many questions.

Lauren Pomerantz crafted a fantastic screenplay based on real moments with her own best friend and later life struggle to be true to her sexuality. The relationship between Lucy and Jane is truthful. To the actresses’ credit, the friendship feels completely organic, although, in the Q&A after the film, Johnson assured that almost every beat is in the text.

Both Dakota Johnson and Sonoya Mizuno are perfect in their respective roles, playing off one another beautifully, but it is Johnson who reveals a welcome depth to her acting style. Over the past five or so years, the actress has taken on roles that challenge her. 2018’s “Suspiria” remake hinted at the depth Johnson had yet to explore on screen. Films such as 2019’s “Our Friend” and 2021’s “The Lost Daughter” allowed her to dive deep into well-crafted, multi-layered characters. At the 2022 Sundance Film Festival (where this film premiered), Johnson finally proved herself a great actress with not only this film but her other 2022 Sundance entry, “Cha Cha Real Smooth”. The role of Lucy allows the actress the proper canvas to give one of her finest performances to date.

Matching Johnson’s great work is a radiant Kiersey Clemons, who plays Brit, a co-worker at the spa where Lucy is employed. There may just be a romantic and sexual possibility between the two, as Brit is obviously interested in Lucy. Eventually, the two have a couple of hangout nights together and find a connection. Could this be the person Lucy needs to come out of her social and sexual shell? Clemons inhabits the role with an earthy sexuality that comes through in the character’s every look, word, and move. Brit’s sexuality is part of her being and she doesn’t shy away from it. The character exudes a freedom of self that Lucy strives for, and one she is quite attracted to. Johnson and Clemons’s scenes together have a kindness to them imbued with an erotic undercurrent. As she did in her wonderful performance in 2018’s “Hearts Beat Loud,” the actress seems effortless in her ability to fully inhabit a character.

Directors Notaro and Allynne give the film dimensions, embracing their Los Angeles locations and the ambiance of the city without drawing attention to it. Where New York-set independent films breathe the pulse of that city, so does this film. These are L.A. folks through and through.

The filmmakers find a good balance in the numerous character crises. While Lucy struggles with accepting her true self, Jane is navigating the move and how it might affect her relationship with her longtime boyfriend (a very funny Jermaine Fowler). Both Jane and Lucy are starting to feel the upcoming distance that will be between them.

This film is smart, something quite unique in today’s cinematic landscape. It has a humorous slant but takes nothing lightly (save for a very funny moment with Tig Notaro as a New Age leader of a “hammock retreat”). Pomerantz’s screenplay has something profound to say about keeping a friendship honest while not being true to oneself, and each character arc is given time to develop. Nothing is dictated by screenplay conventions.

With its two well-executed lead performances and natural humor, “Am I Okay?” is one of the warmest and most charming films of the year.

Film premieres today on the Max streaming service


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