Our Mate: Gabriela Cowperthwaite on the Film’s Authentic Grief

Our Friend: Gabriela Cowperthwaite on the Film’s Real Grief

Jason Segel and Dakota Johnson in Our Good friend, directed by Gabriela Cowperthwaite. Claire Folger/Gravitas Ventures

Fewer than a yr immediately after dropping his wife, Nicole, to terminal most cancers in 2014, veteran journalist Matthew Teague posted a gorgeous 6,000-word piece in Esquire that specific the worst several years of his life—and the friend that stopped him from slipping into the dim abyss of his have grief. Titled “The Mate,” Teague’s raw and candid essay tells the heartbreaking tale of Nicole’s struggle with cancer and the supreme sacrifice that their most effective close friend, Dane Faucheux, designed by moving in with the pair and their two young daughters to develop into a secondary caregiver.

Right after profitable a Nationwide Journal Award, Teague’s story was later turned into a key movement image, which premiered at the 2019 Toronto International Film Competition and is now offered in theaters and on need. Directed by Blackfish’s Gabriela Cowperthwaite and penned by Brad Ingelsby, the film stars Casey Affleck as Matthew, Dakota Johnson as Nicole and Jason Segel as Dane.

Having browse and penned about Teague’s article when it first appeared in the Could 2015 concern of Esquire, Cowperthwaite jumped at the opportunity to deliver the writer’s going tale from the website page to the screen, as she felt that her background as a documentarian would allow her to convey to his tale in a way that was both authentic and available.

In a latest telephone job interview with Observer, Cowperthwaite reflects on the opportunity to do the job with a star-studded solid in southern Alabama, the non-linear character of lifetime and grief, and the common lessons about love and friendship that she hopes viewers are in a position to acquire absent from this film.

Observer: You certainly cherished Matt’s initial tale, but there was a period of two to 3 several years amongst when Matt first wrote the piece and when the script initial landed in your hands. What was it about this tale that really left such a long lasting impression on you?

Gabriela Cowperthwaite: Oh, that’s these a great dilemma. I assume it was a single of individuals article content that genuinely moved me—and it is only been all these several years later that I can at last make feeling of why it moved me—and that’s because its portal of entry into grief is so one of a kind. It signifies grief as a little something that we must not do by itself, but that it’s anything that you ought to do alongside individuals.

Filmmaker Gabriela Cowperthwaite attends AFI Fest 2019.

I was looking at this other [new] motion picture that I beloved termed One more Round, and there is a scene with pallbearers. [It shows] the thought that it can take many persons to be able to uphold somebody’s memory and bearing that load should not drop on one particular particular person. Generally, we all say to people who have suffered a decline, “you’re not by yourself,” when, in simple fact, you’re really by itself. What that individual meant to you and the chasm that they have left is unquestionably unique to you. I guess Matt’s piece and the subsequent script convey to you that just mainly because you are the only one particular grieving in that individual way does not imply that you’re by yourself in your grief. That, to me, was what Dane represented for Matt.

It is pretty uncommon to have 3 large stars at the emotional main of this kind of an personal film. What do you imagine manufactured Dakota, Jason and Casey so ideal for their respective roles?

I consider for Dakota, she felt like Nicole for me. Nicole is a musical theater actress and she’s form of larger-than-everyday living, and then she’s heading via this exceptionally tragic occasion in her existence and nevertheless making an attempt to be sturdy for her girls. Dakota embodies all of all those attributes normally. But in her performing, she understands vulnerability and power, and she’s ready to channel equally of these issues in the correct same moment, and it is so attractive to check out.

Jason was the 1st man or woman that I needed for Dane. It was genuinely for the reason that of his purely natural ability to mild up a home, which is what Dane did for Matt but also for Nicole, Molly and Evie (the two Teague daughters). He is aware of how to appear in, mild up the home, but not have it be about him. He’s consistently listening to everyone in the place, and he’ll arrive in and have this big comic second where everybody will chortle, but he’s spending interest to everybody’s demands even even though he’s serving them. Even if he’s executing a very good work of generating everybody chuckle, he’s still wondering not about himself but he’s wondering about what their future require will be.

Casey is an available actor you really feel like you comprehend him and like you want to be all-around him. And that is something we necessary for Matt. Matt is the cornerstone of this piece, so you wanted to come to feel like you knew who he was and like he was an accessibility place. Casey does this thing that’s practically like a religious expertise. You are viewing unhappiness and vulnerability, but he’s not openly displaying people [emotions] for you. You’re almost intuiting them, and which is what he did for me.

Casey Affleck and Jason Segel in Our Buddy, directed by Gabriela Cowperthwaite. Claire Folger/Gravitas Ventures

How concerned was Matt in the adaptation process?

On established, he gave me comprehensive liberty. It would generally be nerve-wracking when he would appear on set mainly because even though he in no way gave notes or shared his feelings beyond really favourable affirmations, it’s always nerve-wracking mainly because [it was like] he just gave me his new child. I just needed to do suitable by [him]. I generally joke that it’s like obtaining your father occur to your promenade. (Laughs.) He’s constantly like, “What are you speaking about?” And I’m like, “It’s this sensation of: ‘I know you’re there for me, I know you want the best for me and almost everything that I’m undertaking, but I’m however experience self-acutely aware.’” (Laughs.)

This film fantastically highlights the need for openness and vulnerability in male associations, even if it is in a purely platonic perception. Was that one thing that you genuinely desired to spotlight on the monitor?

So, so much. One of my most loved items about this story is this male friendship staying so open and so mutually susceptible and stunning. It’s exciting that from time to time people today see the character of Dane as staying listless and not possessing considerably of a existence of his possess, and those are matters that are intentional. He was seeking and had the propensity to feel shed at instances, but I want the notion that he poured himself into this family members to be observed as a energy. I want it to be witnessed as just as heroic as slaying dragons on behalf of your cherished just one. This is heroic, but it is so, so peaceful. And it is a little something that we’re not used to looking at gentlemen do, placing themselves out on the line like that.

I want the plan that he poured himself into this loved ones to be noticed as a power. This is heroic, but it’s so, so quiet.

You filmed this production in 2019 in excess of the course of 6 months in Fairhope, Alabama—the little city wherever the Teague household nonetheless life right now. Do you have a community story about Nicole that has actually stood out to you immediately after all of this time?

I recall remaining on a area scout one particular day and getting an older gentleman just take me aside and, with tears in his eyes, notify me what Nicole meant to him. They have been in the similar congregation, and he explained to me how she had listened to him and what their friendship intended to him. It was so profound. He didn’t tell me any specifics, but he did not have to. I just knew that Nicole touched men and women everywhere she went and that she was existing in Fairhope. And I imagine, as a consequence of that, Fairhope embraced us and this movie and just explained to us that they would be there for no matter what we desired. The same obligation I felt in direction of Matt and Dane, I also felt toward that town to uphold her memory in the mightiest way.

Provided your perform as a documentarian, you are obviously no stranger to authenticity, but it ought to have been terrifying to bring this screenplay to life. What was the most hard aspect of putting this movie together?

I imagine understanding when to press and when to hold again. There are parts that are unbearable to folks that have gone by reduction, but I have to demonstrate some of that. I have to demonstrate that this reality is unfathomable to a ton of us, and nonetheless it is genuine. For me, I believe pacing was the most difficult portion. When do I hold back again? When do I thrust audiences ahead and into some gritty realism? And when have they had more than enough?

There is gonna be people today who say, “You could have absent even more and we wished to see how most cancers bodily racks the overall body.” And there is some persons that claimed, “I could hardly even choose what you did it was difficult enough for me to sit by the entire matter.” You just have to go with just your inner barometer of pushing and pulling, and when to enable up on an viewers that can’t consider the emotional toll anymore. You’re never ever gonna get [with] all people.


A single of my major takeaways from the film, aside from the unbelievable power of friendship, is the reality that grief is not linear—it arrives and goes in waves. Was it a acutely aware choice on your part or the screenwriter’s part to give the movie a zig-zagging structure? What was the individual cause for that resourceful choice?

That was unquestionably Brad’s contact, and I cherished it. If you are gonna inform a movie chronologically and it’s a movie about an impending demise, you’re actually headed in just one course, and that [direction] is down. I didn’t want you to experience like you had been sinking into a narrative abyss little by little around two hours.

With grief, there are some days in which you think to you, “I’m heading to be ready to get via this,” and there are other times when you cannot get out of mattress. There can be yet another working day when you just wholly stay in the joy of your reminiscences, and there are times when you’re contemplating about the not-so-excellent memories. In lifetime, a person working day does not foretell the subsequent. To me, life is non-linear and grief is the similar. It ebbs and flows, and the non-linear facet of the script strike that for me so profoundly.

For illustration, midway by way of the film, when Dane goes on his hike and wishes to be away from everyone and is slipping into his individual darkness, you recognize what that 1 cellular phone phone from Matt meant to him at that very pivotal minute in his lifestyle. And in some way, you understand why Dane comes back again to treatment for the family members due to the fact that family introduced him back from his have darkness. To me, that’s a single of the stunning things that you find out in a non-chronological film.

How has this venture changed your own outlook on grief and friendship?

Grief is something that I had been via myself, owning shed someone really close to me a long time back, and I’m not absolutely sure that I absolutely came to conditions with it. I understood a large amount of that is for the reason that I did not have anyone grieving together with me. Even although men and women have been having care of me when I was grieving, there wasn’t anybody to share reminiscences with and to uphold the memory of the lost person. It’s some thing that we should do jointly. When Matt was plummeting and slipping into darkness—that’s unavoidable and, of training course, which is gonna happen—Dane simply cannot avoid that, but he can cushion the slide. I guess that’s a thing that you do when you’re grieving together. You can not ease their suffering, but you can just sit up coming to them and not depart. That’s some thing that I want to do for other folks, and that is something that other men and women have finished for me.

The themes of adore, decline and grief look specially pertinent right after the traumatic yr that we have all skilled. I know this movie has most likely taken on a new which means during this pandemic, but what universal lessons do you hope viewers are in a position to get absent from this film?

It sounds so simple but just contacting a friend that you haven’t talked to in a when and earning confident that you’re checking in on people today. These modest times of reaching out and touching every single other [emotionally] when we just cannot touch each and every other [physically] imply anything. We’re missing every single other, and my hope is that we sort of appear back again from this more powerful than at any time.

When I assume about what I want persons to consider absent from the film, the night just after you see it, [I want people to] keep each individual other near. Don’t forget that existence is not good, but it is beautiful. And then wake up the upcoming early morning and simply call anyone that you have not spoken to in a when. It is just commencing with these little things mainly because that is what this movie mentioned to me. It’s not grand functions of heroism. It’s these very small brush strokes of getting existing and being there for each and every other.

This job interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Our Buddy is now out there in theaters and on demand.

How the Director of ‘Our Friend’ Adapted Real-Life Grief Into a Moving Film