This review of Stephanie Allynne and Tig Notaro’s Am I OK? is part of our 2022 Sundance Film Festival coverage. For more reviews and essays, visit our Sundance archive.
When you’re young, you assume there will be a point when you’re not. And that’s a fact, but hidden in that assumption is a lie. Growth does not come with age. You have to figure out your adulthood independently, and there’s no timestamp indicating when it will happen. Eighteen, twenty-one, thirty-one, forty-two, fifty-two? The best bet is realizing that when you think you know, you don’t. Just keep striving to understand, knowing you never will.
Am I OK? purposefully challenges the coming-of-age notion, and the result is a cathartic embrace. Directors Tig Notaro and Stephanie Allynne find themselves in Lauren Pomerantz‘s script, and their discovery becomes an opportunity for your discovery. In celebrating a growth mindset, the filmmakers offer hope that the better you is ahead of you.
Lucy (Dakota Johnson) and Jane (Sonoya Mizuno) hit their thirties holding two opposing mentalities. Lucy let her artistic passion crumble into a day job click-clacking as a spa receptionist. Jane thrives in her office, and it recently triggered a promotion that will take her across the pond and away from Lucy. The impending separation tears at Lucy, causing her to reveal a deep secret: she’s into women but has never attempted a meaningful interaction.
Wrapped around the revelation is a profound shame. Lucy loathes herself, believing she should have figured this all out already. Jane is understanding and wants to treat Lucy’s confession like a business proposal. You like girls. Check. Let’s find girls. Check. Let’s kiss girls. No problem. A simple strategy session will have Lucy and the flirty masseuse (Kiersey Clemons) from work entangled in days, if not hours.
Johnson and Mizuno almost make you forget you’re watching a movie. There’s an alchemy to their projected friendship. You believe it, and you root for it. You shout at them like you’re the third friend in the group.
Johnson gives Lucy a delicate insecurity. She brings so much humanity to Lucy that it’s impossible to judge her, and you quickly realize that it’s not about comparing her journey to Lucy’s or yours. As her audience, you’re connecting the dots before Jane does, and the calculus solidifies your third wheel status. As the new bestie in the group, you wait for your friends to catch up to the happiness you know they deserve.
Mizuno has the more challenging gig amongst the two actors in many ways. Jane is the confident one. She thinks she’s figured it out, but she discovers her own unique hiccup that puts her life into a tailspin as well. Mizuno takes Jane right up to the edge of steely severity but never lets her teeter over.
Pomerantz’s screenplay smartly never forces us to choose a side. The quest starts with Lucy, but Lucy never takes over the narrative. The two friends control the film equally, and there is no satisfaction in watching the wedge drive between them. Pomerantz uses their conflict to underscore their friendship, and the film never forecasts a destructive climax. It’s too warm a movie for serious threat, and in that warmth is a tremendous comfort.
Am I OK? is a bright, crisp L.A. movie. We follow Lucy and Jane as they navigate bars, yoga classes, and hammock retreats. Tig Notaro and Stephanie Allynne deliver playful jabs at the realest faux town in America, but even those spikey offenses are dulled by obvious affection. These are their people, and whatever mockery you find comes from a sibling spirit.
Anyone familiar with Notaro and Allynne will see how much of themselves they inject into Am I OK? The directors met while filming In A World, which premiered at Sundance in 2013. Two years later, a critical moment in their romance was depicted in the documentary Tig. And now, nine years since their first meeting, united by two children and marriage, Notaro and Allynne toast the awkward challenge of finding yourself years after the cultural standard.
Am I OK? is an affirmation of their adventure without directly cribbing it. They bring enough personal stamp to Pomerantz’s script to elevate it beyond its romantic comedy borders. While sexual discovery propels the narrative, the film rests on platonic love and self-discovery. Its success leaves its audience craving similar celebrations from other creators.
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