Self-expression can be a difficult thing when society has so much to say about who and what people are supposed to be. It would be considerably easier to navigate this world without preconceived notions about when important milestones should occur, if they should at all, and without constructs like gender and other defining characteristics. Unfortunately, that’s not the way the world works at the moment, and it’s impossible not to be influenced at least somewhat by what someone else has said or done. Am I Ok? follows one woman’s journey to discovering who she is, hindered along the way by her own discomfort with pushing boundaries.
Lucy (Dakota Johnson) and Jane (Sonoya Mizuno) have been best friends for years. They get along very well and spend almost all their time together, but their personalities are radically different. Lucy has trouble recognizing whether relationships in her life should proceed, while Jane has a serious boyfriend (Jermaine Fowler) who gets who she is. When Jane is offered a promotion that will take her to London, Lucy is caught off-guard and feels abandoned. The fission in their friendship also comes at just the time when Lucy is finally starting to acknowledge that she is attracted to women.
This film comes from real-life couple Tig Notaro and Stephanie Allynne, who make their directorial debut in a comedy inspired by their own history, chronicled in the Netflix documentary Tig, where Allynne had for years always identified as straight. In this film, Lucy has clearly never thought much about – or at least said out loud – the possibility that she might not be what she and many others would consider normal or standard. Jane is far more confident and unafraid to share what she has been through, and her casual mention of having made out with a girl is what sparks Lucy’s search for a sense of self.
What’s refreshing to see in this film is that Lucy’s exploration of her sexual orientation never comes with discrimination or mockery from anyone. It’s much more about the fact that Lucy is awkward in interactions in general, which makes her flirtation with a colleague at work, Brittany (Kiersey Clemons), all that much more delightful to watch. Being attracted to women is a part of Lucy’s personality that she just hasn’t allowed to bubble to the surface yet, and seeing her very slowly start to do that is quite entertaining.
Just as much as this is a film about Lucy figuring out who she is, it’s about the strong bond that exists between its two protagonists. This film is a fantastic showcase for actress Sonoya Mizuno, who has appeared in TV series like Maniac and Devs, as well as the film Ex Machina, and her upcoming role in the Game of Thrones prequel House of the Dragon is sure to catapult her to fame. She’s extremely natural on screen, and is sharply funny in all of her line readings. She should absolutely get more lead roles that give her this much to do.
Mizuno is a great foil for Johnson, who also appears in another terrific Sundance entry this year, Cha Cha Real Smooth, and who here masters the art of playing a shy thirtysomething woman who has always let others tell her who she is and what she should be. The script, from debut screenwriter Lauren Pomerantz, is a delight, and it’s an accessible story that doesn’t require all that much concentration to enjoy. It does take some questionable and unnecessary turns in its third act, but ends on a heartwarming note that makes the winding path to get there feel worthwhile and rewarding.
Am I Ok? is showing in the Premieres section at the Sundance Film Festival.