There seems to be this preconceived notion that at a certain point in a person’s life, they should have the basics figured out about themselves. What do I want to do with my life? What are my long-term goals and aspirations? Who do I love? In AM I OK?, directed by Tig Notaro and Stephanie Allynne, and written by Lauren Pomerantz, we see a story about discovering who you are much later than expected, how the journey to finding out who you are should be taken in one’s own time, and it does so in one of the best comedies of this year’s Sundance.
Dakota Johnson stars as Lucy, who seems unsure about the choices in her life. She’s an on-again-off-again artist who works as a receptionist at a spa. When hanging out with one of her guy friends (played by Whitmer Thomas), she flinches at the idea of a romantic relationship, even though her friends think she should just go for it. From the very beginning, it doesn’t seem as though Lucy is indecisive, just that she doesn’t quite know what she’s looking for yet.
When Lucy’s best friend Jane (Sonoya Mizuno) tells her that she’s moving to London, the pair get drunk together, and Lucy reveals that she actually likes women. It’s a truth that Lucy has never quite confronted about herself, but with Jane leaving in just a few months, Jane decides to help Lucy in this new direction in her life.
Through Johnson’s vulnerable and hilarious performance as Lucy, we see a person finally starting to explore who she really is, and trying to figure out who she has been all along. But AM I OK? is also a lovely story about friendship, as Jane often tries to push Lucy out of her comfort zone, in ways that are both integral to this new step, but often push too far. Once Lucy comes out to her friend, Jane states that she is “not leaving this country until you touch someone else’s vagina,” and while Jane thinks that’s what her friend needs, this type of escalation of a person’s evolution can also backfire. AM I OK? manages to handle all of these ideas with a deft hand and an incredible amount of care.
But naturally with Notaro and Allynne behind the camera, AM I OK? is extremely funny. There’s a sense of comfortable playfulness between Lucy and Jane that feels honest and accurate. Johnson proves that she’s a great comedic performer, and that she can make awkwardness and uncertainty absolutely charming. Mizuno is also excellent as Jane, who doesn’t realize she’s also learning about herself and what she needs during this process. Despite seeming to have her life together, Jane also has plenty about herself that she needs to work on, but she’s a fantastic outgoing balance to Lucy’s apprehensive attitude.
Even though AM I OK? primarily focuses on the friendship between Lucy and Jane, the film is packed with a wonderful supporting cast. Thomas is delightful in his few scenes with Lucy, while Jermaine Fowler is a great addition as Jane’s longtime boyfriend, while Molly Gordon and Sean Hayes are both nice surprises in smaller roles. Also terrific is Kiersey Clemons as Lucy’s co-worker who makes Lucy come to her realization. Clemons has to play her role as possibly interested, or maybe just possibly flirty, and her actions make it clear why it’s so hard for Lucy to make a move.
Pomerantz’s screenplay is deceptively complex, yet it’s pulled off effortlessly. Pomerantz is presenting ideas of self-discovery, lifelong friendships, confusion and uncertainty in who a person is, and handling all this in a remarkably entertaining and endearing story.
AM I OK? is the type of sublime indie comedy that comes around too rarely nowadays, akin to Obvious Child or Celene and Jesse Forever, these surprising and warm films about love in all its forms. AM I OK? proves that we need more of these types of films, more comedic roles for Johnson, and hopefully, that this is the first in a long line of terrific films from Notaro and Allynne.