Toni Collette and Drew Barrymore are thirty-something BFFs whose bond is sorely tested when Collette’s reformed wild child loses her way while battling breast cancer.
The film opens with a quick gallop through the lives of Milly and Jess, from Jess’ arrival as an American kid to an English school, to hanging out with Milly’s actress mother Miranda (Jacqueline Bisset), to being groupies until an unplanned pregnancy sees Milly marry roadie Kit (Dominic Cooper) and settle down to a PR career while Kit embraces the business side of music. Jess meanwhile works for a Green NGO and lives on a houseboat with Jago (Paddy Considine), a builder and oil-rig worker.
And then Milly is informed she has breast cancer. So begins debilitating bouts of chemotherapy and the psyche-destroying hair-loss before the emperor of maladies unleashes the full arsenal of horrors. As Milly’s condition deteriorates it takes a heavy toll not only on her marriage, but also drives a wedge between Jess and Jago as Jago becomes increasingly aggrieved at IVF being put on hold for the sake of Milly; especially as Milly becomes increasingly unbearable.
Miss You Already follows Me and Earl and the Dying Girl’s disastrous lead in believing that having a character die of cancer grants instant profundity. It does not. Danny Boyle’s Sunshine commentary observed it’s hard to cinematically mourn a character given the medium’s preoccupation with momentum. Miss You Already belives it can depict thirty years of friendship, material which Mia Hansen-Love would render as a full movie, in a cold open, after which you’ll pre-emptively mourn Milly when she’s diagnosed in the first scene; chronologically speaking.
It’s a fool’s errand that would sink instantly if Collette, Cooper, and Considine weren’t deploying their formidable charisma and comic abilities to keep the ship afloat. And this is despite Morwenna Banks’ script boasting super-English dialogue that English actors can’t deliver without sounding like a Hollywood fantasy of Dear Old Blighty. Barrymore is surprisingly nondescript as long-suffering Jess, while Bisset makes an impression despite her part being Castle’s Martha Rogers without the accompanying zingers.
Quite what attracted Thirteen director Catherine Hardwicke puzzles. The most ‘feminist’ scene is staggeringly inane; Milly upbraids Kit, invoking the myth of multi-tasking, and their predictably-wise-beyond-her-years daughter upbraids him for not realising Milly was overselling her health – “You really don’t understand women at all, do you Dad?” There are though tell-tale signs that something got lost somewhere; Milly is inexplicably hostile to Anjli Mohindra’s co-worker Kira, to the point you think something is being planted for the finale, except then there is no pay-off.
But if the crux of this film is female friendship it reverses Frances Ha and Mistress America’s equating of maturity with the healthy diminution of intense female bonds. Hell, it says the exact opposite of every Judd Apatow bromance! Female friendship here is far more important than marriage: Milly stands in for Jago at the birth of his child, Jess takes Kit’s place at Milly’s deathbed. If Jonah Hill lit up a celebratory bong with Seth Rogen beside Katherine Heigl’s hospital bedside at the end of Knocked Up you’d have an approximate parallel. Pretty dope…
It’s hard to know what the moral of Miss You Already is meant to be. Maybe that, at age forty, Milly finally learned how to behave like a grown-up, and it only took cancer for her to do it.
Miss You Already is in cinemas on Friday 25th September. Check out the trailer below.
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