There is a prevailing notion in American culture that you’re a failure if you haven’t mastered life by age 27. It’s a dangerous idea that can lead to desperation, self-loathing, and, ultimately, paralysis through analysis. Am I OK?, the debut feature of actors-turned-directors Tig Notaro and Stephanie Allynne, is a thoughtful and amusing reflection on the confused sexuality of one ‘ancient’ 32-year-old woman. The film, like its heroine, is messy, awkward, and eternally hopeful in the face of despair.
Lucy (Dakota Johnson) and Jane (Sonoya Mizuno) have been friends forever. It’s one of those soulful psychic connections where nothing is off-limits. Well, nothing except that Lucy thinks she might be a lesbian. When Jane announces a big job promotion that requires a move to London, Lucy’s lurking sexual confusion finally bursts to the surface in a barrage of heaving sobs.
But this is not a story about unrequited love. Notaro and Allynne (who are also a married couple) slyly set you up for romance between Lucy and Jane, but this is a pretty by-the-numbers coming-out story. Lucy, played with adorable awkwardness by Johnson, has never made a decision in her life, which makes her the perfect vehicle for such a seismic life shift. “I should have figured this out by now,” she laments. Like any responsible adult in the digital age, she quickly Googles ‘How to know if you’re a lesbian’ to find some expert advice.
The humor here ranges from subtle to unexpectedly broad. Lucy’s clueless flirtations with a new co-worker (Kiersey Clemons as Brittany), for example, are infused with a painful relatability, while a later visit to a gay nightclub feels obligatory and flat. Fortunately, screenwriter Lauren Pomerantz makes few missteps when it comes to Lucy’s vulnerability and Johnson captures this fragility without ever devolving into caricature. You want her to figure out these issues and find acceptance, despite her natural tendency toward misery.
Am I OK? cruises along with a relaxing vibe, like spending the evening with your smartest friends. There’s probably too much dead space where nothing of emotional importance happens and there is definitely too much texting and not enough face-to-face interaction between Lucy and Jane. Texting isn’t exactly a spectator sport, after all.
Still, Dakota Johnson hoists Am I OK? onto her back and carries it to victory. She’s so available in each moment, listening and reacting like someone who just discovered a new world of exciting possibilities. Am I OK? proves, once again, that you’re never too old to surprise yourself.