A romantic comedy that functions best as a fable of friendship and self-reflection, Am I OK? is the kind of lightweight, amiable movie that just barely earns the emotional beats at the heart of its story. Set in Los Angeles, it follows the converging life events of two best friends, Lucy (Dakota Johnson) and Jane (Sonoya Mizuno), soul sisters with opposite personalities who tell each other everything—except for the big secrets they’ve been harboring from each other. How they respond to hearing them fuels Stephanie Allyne and Tig Notaro’s gentle and wobbly feature debut.
As a 32-year-old spa receptionist, Lucy has never been in a relationship and never fallen in love. The closest thing she has to intimacy is the handshake she gives her male friend after hanging out. As she bemoans her romantic stagnancy over drinks with Jane and her boyfriend (Jermaine Fowler), her bestie delivers some more bad news: She’s accepted a promotion at work and is moving to London, her childhood home. Lucy initially puts up a strong facade, congratulating Jane and her impending adventure abroad. Then she orders too many drinks and breaks down in the restaurant bathroom.
Perhaps it’s the alcohol or the ticking clock with her best friend, but later that night at a weepy sleepover, Lucy feels compelled to share her own, long-gestating revelation: She thinks she likes women. It’s a quiet, tender and confused admission between the sheets, but Jane offers her immediate encouragement and light teasing. “You did want a Volvo in high school,” she jokes, while Lucy agonizes over the embarrassment of coming out now. It’s a late-stage awakening that Lucy attempts to verify with online quizzes and actualize with a sudden attraction to Brittany (Kiersey Clemons), a touchy-feely colleague that flirts with midday massages and compliments about her artwork.
But because Lucy is a timid homebody, and because Jane is an ambitious extrovert, tension begins to develop. Excited about her friend’s newly self-aware sexuality, Jane drags Lucy to a lesbian bar where she—not Lucy—ends up making out with a stranger. It’s an off-putting display that throws their friendship into discord, dramatized in an awkward shouting match in Jane’s office. It’s the movie’s first real slip-up—Johnson and Mizuno have strong chemistry, but struggle to show the extremes of their characters’ anger—and it drags the rest of the movie into a lull. Jane spends more time with her London-bound loudmouth colleague, Kat (a delightfully crazy Molly Gordon), and Lucy explores a few dates alone.
Part of the tonal inconsistencies seem to be tethered to Lauren Pomerantz’s humorous script, which is based on her own coming out with producer Jessica Elbaum. Lucy seems like a fun, witty person—she calls her blueberry muffin a “blube”—and her texting repartee with Jane is one of the movie’s strongest comedic flourishes. But it has a difficult time negotiating her abrupt melancholic and reticent behavior, relying on Johnson to find the right balance between embodying a yoga-inspired, bar-hopping Angelino and needing her friends to supply her their confidence and strength. “Have I ever been happy?” Lucy wonders aloud, and the movie sometimes seems unsure about how seriously that question should be taken.
Much like its protagonists, this is a movie that gets lost in the weeds before finding an exit to clarity. That occurs primarily when it balances Lucy’s issues with Jane’s own insecurities, becoming a more predictable, but no less affecting examination of vulnerability. Within the larger tree of recent female friendship stories—Frances Ha, Lady Bird, Booksmart—this sits delicately on its own branch, inviting other small and unshared personal stories to grow alongside it.
Am I OK? premiered at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival.