TIFF19 #1: The Friend

Lindsay had (or was supposed to have) an all-day meeting yesterday, so I thought I’d try to catch a TIFF screening from the first weekend. I grabbed a ticket for The Friend (imdb | rotten tomatoes | tiff) at the Princess Of Wales theatre, a film based on an essay published in Esquire four years ago about cancer’s brutal toll on author Matthew Teague’s wife, and his friend who stayed to help through it all.

I’m honestly not sure yet how I feel about the movie version. It pushed every emotional button — I cried, as did pretty much the entire theatre — but I felt like the movie very much wanted us to cry. It focused on the hard parts of the story, but not the hardest parts of the story — it glossed over much of the physical trauma, and added a life-is-beautiful veneer missing from the essay. So maybe Teague wanted that version? He did, after all, option the story and consult on the screenplay, so it wasn’t ripped from his hands. And the essay was written in the raw months after the author’s wife passed — maybe he wanted to capture more of her vs. more of the cancer? I don’t know.

The director addressed the difference in tone during the post-screening Q&A, saying she had to find a balance between telling the story and traumatizing the audience. Which, fine.

But as I said, I felt emotionally drained — pushed, more like — by the end. And that seemed to me like the film’s intent. So while I had a very strong reaction, I’m having trouble sorting out whether it feels like an authentic one the day after.

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