Catherine Hardwicke's cancer drama goes for the heart without bombarding you with cues to reach for the Kleenex.
Catherine Hardwicke, no stranger to films about women and girls and their relationships with each other, stamps hard on the sentiment pedal in this weepie, but relatively stable and sensible, comedy-drama starring Toni Colette and Drew Barrymore.
They play Milly and Jess, friends since primary school, who have shared most of their lives together - first kisses and all sorts - and while Colette’s Milly goes on to marry a rockstar (Dominic Cooper) and begins a family off of the back of his lucrative success, Barrymore’s Jess finds herself on a different path in life. She takes part in community enrichment programmes, planting gardens and the like, and finds herself having difficulties conceiving with her husband Jago (Paddy Considine) on board their homely houseboat. “Your eggs are ready,” he says to Jess, spooning them onto a plate from a saucepan. “Not according to this," she retorts, brandishing an ovulation checking gizmo.
The two lead chalk-and-cheese lives but find themselves inseparable - until Milly is diagnosed with advanced cancer. As Milly’s life is turned upside down - she loses her hair and, eventually, more - Jess successfully undergoes fertility treatment, and the tables of fortune are gradually turned in a real test of their friendship. Milly finds it hard to bear the strain of the disease, pursuing a relationship with a barman (played, inexplicably but subtly, by Tyson Ritter of the All-American Rejects) and generally beginning to fall apart. Of course, it’s Jess that bears the brunt of this, while dealing with her newfound pregnancy.
Toni Colette gives her all as Milly, shaving her head and losing an intense amount of weight - and employing some rather skilled makeup artists - to chart the cancer taking hold of her character’s body. Her angry, emotionally unstable performance as she deals with the chemotherapy, with her husband, her children, her demanding mother (Jacqueline Bisset on fine matriarchal form) and, eventually, the apparently happier and less tormented life of her best friend, which threatens to tear them apart.
Despite great performances from Colette and from Barrymore - the latter playing the chummy, American best friend whose bon ami facade eventually begins to crack after an understandable degree of strain - the film actually misses out on telling what could have been a more interesting story in places, and it doesn’t help that the cancer diagnosis is essentially painted as the first real challenge the two friends have faced in their 20-year friendship.
Surely there was something to the scenes rushed through early in the film as Milly began her relationship with an thriving and conspicuously unruffled rock star? Surely something would’ve given there? Or later, as their lifestyles began to shift and move away from one another?
Maybe it’s wistful thinking. And maybe I’m a little cynical about the serious and very determined tugging at heartstrings that inevitably comes along at the end of the film, accompanied by more than a few conspicuous sniffles in the cinema. But Miss You Already is a passable watch, certainly making great use of Colette and Barrymore in roles they both fit very, very well - and does handle the topic of cancer in a much less cynical way than, say, The Fault In Our Stars, which insisted on squeezing your chest every few minutes with a new, stinging point to highlight just how sad the situation was. At least Miss You Already dares to be a little nastier, even a little nicer too, and a little more human, in the way it tells its story.