Sundance 2022: “Am I OK?” Is a Love Letter to Female Friendships and the Shifting Priorities of Adulthood

This is one in a series of film reviews from the 2022 Sundance Film Festival, focused on films by women, trans or nonbinary directors that tell compelling stories about the lives of women and girls. You can find all the reviews together here.

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Lucy (Dakota Johnson) and Jane (Sonoya Mizuno) in Am I OK? by Tig Notaro and Stephanie Allynne. (Emily Knecht / Sundance Institute)

Considering the fact that most people have deep and enriching friendships that often outlast or supersede the romantic relationships in their lives, there really should be more romantic comedies in the U.S. market that feature the intimacies and intricacies of friendships rather than just the ardor and foibles of new romance.

Am I OK?, directed by Stephanie Allynne and Tig Notaro (who are romantic partners as well as professional ones) and written by Lauren Pomerantz, is a romantic comedy that does just this; in fact, Notaro and Allynne explicitly described the film during their introduction at the screening as a love story about female friendship. The film has since been acquired by Warner Brothers and HBO Max, so should be available on the streaming platform sometime this year.

In the film, thirtysomethings Lucy (Dakota Johnson) and Jane (Sonoya Mizuno), best friends since high school, find their previously iron-clad friendship tested when Jane receives a promotion that will take her overseas and Lucy comes out as a lesbian. The latter revelation is met with little fanfare by Jane, who’s determined to find Lucy a girlfriend before she leaves for London, and yet the shift in Lucy’s romantic prospects is also instrumental to the rift that begins to form between the long-time friends.

In some ways coyly reliant on rom-com tropes like the tension between opposing personalities, charmingly dysfunctional characters, and the sudden conflicts arising from the disruption of the status quo, Am I OK? also continually refuses expectations in productive and fun ways.

Lucy, who’s nervous and shy around everyone but Jane, struggles with feelings of being left behind, both by her friend and because she feels like she’s coming out late at 32 when most of the people she knows have long since determined their sexual preferences. Lucy has other frustrated ambitions as well: she works at a chichi massage parlor but her actual passion is painting.

Jane, on the other hand, seems at first relatively secure with her boyfriend and at her job, but she discovers that her gregarious, authoritative personality doesn’t mesh well with Lucy’s burgeoning self-awareness and associated anxieties. As Lucy starts to date and Jane prepares for her move, both women come to realize that the old dynamics of their friendship won’t work under the new world order.  

It’s worth saying up front that the film does not attempt to force Lucy and Jane into a romantic relationship with each other, a relief since best-friends-turned-lovers is such a tired trope in romcoms, particularly LGBTQ ones. Instead, Am I OK? takes a far more nuanced approach to exploring friendship and the ways those relationships can change and grow as we embrace adult decisions and come into our own.

While the conflict between Lucy and Jane feels a bit forced considering their initial closeness, Am I OK? is overall charming and funny, with a few fantastic one-liners, great acting and smart writing. Not to mention there’s something quietly revolutionary about a film that truly does focus on the beauty of friendship and the potential of us all to grow and change alongside each other.

Editor’s note: Throughout the month of February, Aviva Dove-Viebahn will review 12 films in total from Sundance—six feature films and six documentaries. Explore all the reviews together here.

  1. Framing Agnes
  2. Master
  3. Am I OK?
  4. Tiktok, Boom
  5. Leonor Will Never Die
  6. Brainwashed: Sex-Camera-Power
  7. Girl Picture
  8. Calendar Girls
  9. Nanny
  10. Sirens
  11. Call Jane
  12. The Janes

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About

Aviva Dove-Viebahn is an assistant professor of film and media studies at Arizona State University and a contributing editor for Ms.'s Scholar Writing Program.