It’s easy to gauge the value of friendships based upon the support one receives after emotionally exhausting events like a breakup. After all, these are the lowest of lows, and if one’s friends aren’t there during times like these, what purpose do they ultimately serve? Director Zoran Dragelj’s Friends Like These is a standard yet charming hang-out comedy that examines the strength of personal bonds that blur the line between platonic and romantic after a breakup.
The film opens with Sal (Josh Romyn) in bed with his girlfriend, Lucy (Matreya Scarrwener), enjoying a lazy morning that may or may not culminate in brunch. We then cut to Sal alone on his couch surrounded by empty beer cans and pizza boxes, a cinematic staging that almost always indicates a breakup. He subsequently gets invited to a weekend getaway on a gorgeous island in Vancouver with his friends June (Jillian Zavazal) and Izzy (Kiran Madahar). His two friends aim to alleviate Sal’s heartache.
However, after imbibing in copious amounts of beer, it seems that more was on the agenda than innocuous fireside chats. Sal, Izzy, and June’s first evening together eventually culminates in an ill-advised sexual encounter during a drunken stupor. For all their frank discussions of sex-positivity, the characters are hilariously encumbered by a sense of awkwardness for the rest of the narrative.
“Sal, Izzy, and June’s first evening together eventually culminates in an ill-advised sexual encounter…”
We can all agree that the well is running dry for stories that are so thoroughly constructed around the generational angst of twenty-somethings fumbling through their personal and professional troubles. Dragelj does keep the audience engaged though, with the early establishment of sexual tension and a few noteworthy sequences of drunken humor. Unfortunately, with a runtime that’s just under an hour, Friends Like These has little time for character building. Sal, June, and Izzy so readily fit into the archetype of the adult millennial that we don’t necessarily need extended exposition to know who we’re dealing with.
True to form, all have problems at work and are drifting aimlessly in their romantic lives. The casting is spot-on, but one definitely gets the impression that the actors might not be straying too far from their innate personalities as they clarify their favorite craft beer and foods. Writing like this may humanize them to a degree, but it can also seem like padding, as do the indie needle-drops that come into play when there are lulls in the narrative.
That so much seems familiar (one could even argue interchangeable) to any viewer who has watched an episode of Girls is indicative of the film feeling somewhat derivative. Still, while Dragelj and writers David Laurence and Josh Romyn make no considerable effort to create distinctive characters, there remains a certain charm to their earnestness. Of course, this isn’t the first time that we are privy to characters living through banal experiences like casual sex and professional ennui, nor will it be the last. Still, if certain aspects of Friends Like These weren’t at least marginally relatable, films and shows in this vein wouldn’t be so enduring.
"…remains a certain charm to their earnestness."