Sundance 2022: You'll be more than okay with Am I OK?

Courtesy of Sundance Institute

Dakota Johnson and Sonoya Mizuno in "Am I OK?"

Real-life couple Stephanie Allynne and Tig Notaro premiered their new film "Am I OK?" at the Sundance Film Festival this year. This subtle one-third-life crisis comedy hits on a lot of serious identity issues while still being funny and uplifting.

Dakota Johnson and Sonoya Mizuno play Lucy and Jane respectively. Their friendship has spanned over many years and has provided them both comfort during their fun-loving twenties. But as each of them realizes that their thirties will involve more adulting, a fissure in their relationship soon develops.

First, Jane's career has finally gained her enough experience for a huge promotion overseas, and Lucy, who's still figuring out where she fits, progresses through life in a sort of limbo between self-realization and denial. The latter is further exacerbated by Jane's overbearing control issues.

Since it happens early in the film, it's no spoiler to reveal that Lucy is going through a self-identity sexuality crisis. She doesn't really connect with men and even though deep-down she knows why, it's only recently come to the surface after shunning a really nice guy who some would call "relationship material."

After a heart-to-heart confession to Jane about her sexuality, Lucy struggles with that epiphany, dealing with the arrested development of her closeted life over the past 25 years. But Jane remains supportive, perhaps overly so as she pushes Jane to immediately get out there and "touch vagina" which is just another example of her superintendence of the friendship.

As these two characters grow up, they find out that things, in order to change, must evolve, and with that old characteristics must molt. The cognitive dissonance going on with them individually sours their collective force and old roles become collateral damage. Whether this destroys their dynamic for good is for you, the viewer to find out.

Dakota Johnson plays Lucy in "Am I Ok?"Sundance Film Festival

"Am I OK?" isn't as heavy as the above synopsis feels. This film at its heart is a sort of backward engineered romantic comedy about friendships and how they evolve over time. Standing up to the person who knows you best is not easy, but essential.

The chemistry between Dakota Johnson and Sonoya Mizuno is impeccable, and the material they are given to work with is top-notch. Tig and Allynne direct these characters succinctly, but with enough broad strokes to make them precocious yet vulnerable.

Johnson is such a lovable presence. There is no way you could come away from this film without looking into her oeuvre for other works. She is actually in another film, "Cha Cha Real Smooth," premiering at Sundance, and praise for her in that film is even richer.

What Johnson gives Lucy in "Am I OK?" is a quiet voice and pensive countenance. She comes from the bloodline of Hollywood elite; her mother is Melanie Griffith and her grandmother is Tippi Hedren. Just like those women, Johnson delivers a naïveté, but so grounded that you know by the end her years of denial were simply a part of her destiny.

Sonoya Mizuno isn't letting Johnson steal the show. Her Jane is just as insecure but doesn't wear it on her sleeve. In fact, it's just the opposite. She's believably pushy and overbearing yet somehow still inspiring.

This being a Gloria Sanchez Productions film it could have gone the silliness route like with their "Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar," or even in satirical, dramatic ways as in Ridley Scott's "Thelma in Louise." But thankfully Lauren Pomerantz's excellent script isn't full of folly and everything feels relatable and fresh.

One trick the writer has in store for you is making you feel as though you know where this story is going from the beginning, and you might be wrong. In its final third, both Jane and Lucy have leveled up in both maturity and confidence. They have become better friends because they have accepted parts of themselves only the other could extract.

"Am I OK?" is a thoughtful comedy with enough respect for its audience to not punch down on its subject matter for laughs. Instead, you will laugh because these characters are so likable and so flawed that their interactions are relatable. We all have that one best friend who knows everything about us. It's those friends who know us better than we know ourselves and no matter how much we want to deny it, have helped mold us into the people we are today.

"Am I OK?" premiered at the Sundance Film Festival 2022.

Meet the Artist: Tig Notaro and Stephanie Allynne on "Am I Ok?"

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