Dakota Johnson (pictured) stars in “Am I OK?” now streaming on Max. / Publicity photo

Tig Notaro and Stephanie Allynne Direct “Am I OK?, ” Juan Pablo Di Pace Headlines “The Mattachine Family”

When the lesbian romantic comedy, “Am I OK?” debuted at Sundance in early 2022, the audience reaction was great, the film received strong reviews and it got picked up for distribution. Then — it disappeared for more than two years. Now it’s finally available to see.

Written by Lauren Pomerantz and directed by Tig Notaro and Stephanie Allynne (a couple in real life), the film stars Dakota Johnson and Sonoya Mizuno as Lucy and Jane, respectively, who are best friends whose bond is put to the test when Lucy realizes she is attracted to women.

Notaro had worked with Pomerantz before, and they became friends.

“We had a similar sensibility and really amused one another,” Notaro said. “Getting the screenplay sent my way with Stephanie — it felt like the humor was there, and it felt there was a nuance to this coming out story that people would likely connect to. It wasn’t about being 17 or 20 coming out. [Lucy] is 32, and I think Stephanie related because she came out later.”

What Allynne liked so much is that this was a story not about someone who faces obstacles such as religion or family holding them back from coming out, but it’s the inner struggle.

Both women — making their directorial debuts here together — agree that the script felt personal and authentic.

Lucy and Jane’s friendship is important to both of them, and there is concern Lucy’s attraction to women will affect their relationship.

“Tig and I talked about that — we don’t have that best friend that we bounce everything off of,” Allynne said. “So, we loved that part of Lucy’s struggle was telling Jane. How come she hasn’t told her and why has she held that for so long. Is that lying to a friend? There’s this idea of coming out to yourself, the world, and to your best friend that has been next to you the whole time.”

After the 2022 Sundance Film Festival, when HBO Max bought distribution rights, the film virtually disappeared, but Notaro and Allynne were relieved to hear it was airing in June.

“With everything shifting at HBO and HBO Max, all of that, the massive shift, so many projects got put on the back burner or maybe just went away forever,” Notaro said. “We did not know what was going to happen to this. Then we got a call that this was coming out. We thought — I guess we’ll have to have a coming out party for this!”

In the new comedy-drama, “The Mattachine Family,” Thomas (Nico Tortorella) and Oscar (Juan Pablo di Pace) are a gay couple who, when their first foster child returns to his birth mother, discover they have different thoughts about the idea of family. It’s a very personal work for its director, Andy Vallentine, and his husband/writer Danny.

After Di Pace received an email from his agent about the script, he auditioned and met the Vallentines over Zoom, then did a chemistry read with actors.

“Apparently something worked,” he said with a laugh.

He was very drawn to the material and realized it meant a lot for the Vallentines.

“I think this is personal in subject matter, based on their experience and wanting to have a kid, which they did after the movie,” Di Pace said. “They manifested their baby by making a film. The other side is — I understand this is their first feature and that in itself is huge. It does not look like a first feature. It is special to be a part of something like this. [The Vallentines] were my example. Afterwards, I went off and did my own film. Andy is my mentor in a way.”

The actor feels the balance between Thomas and Oscar is the soul of the film.

“You can see their struggle and their genuine love for each other,” he said. “It’s a relationship where they don’t want the same things but love each other deeply. It’s kind of a tragic love story. You see the hurt and the relationship is very real and grounded. It’s very easy in a queer couple to say, ‘You want this, I want this, so bye,’ but this is not the case for them.”

“The Mattachine Family” has a rich ensemble that includes Emily Hampshire, Carl-Clemons Hopkins, and Heather Matarazzo.

“We were so lucky to have so many incredible actors from stage and television,” Di Pace said. “But my favorite was Nico — I may have had a bit of a crush on him during filming. Plus, he was the one I had the most scenes with.”

 

“Am I OK?” is now streaming on Max

“The Mattachine Family” is now available on all major streaming platforms and is on Blu-ray disc June 25