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USA 2015
Directed by
Catherine Hardwicke
112 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Sharon Hurst
2.5 stars

Miss You Already

Synopsis: Milly (Toni Collette) and Jess (Drew Barrymore) have been best friends since school days, sharing every important moment of their lives. Now considerably more mature, each is in a committed relationship, Milly with Kit (Dominic Cooper), and two little kids, and Jess with Jago (Paddy Considine), an oil rig worker. Jess and Jago are considering IVF to conceive a child and at the same time Milly discovers a malignant lump in her breast. The strength of their friendship, and of each woman’s relationship with her partner will be put to the test.

In 2003 Catherine Hardwicke directed the critically acclaimed Thirteen, a hard-hitting film about  teenage rebellion. From there her directorial CV has been somewhat downhill with Twilight, Red Riding Hood and a bunch of TV series. So it is a shame that this latest film, based upon a book by Morwenna Banks, although addressing important issues, continues the trend. The plot is relevant to women of all ages (and their menfolk), the four main leads (especially Collette) are absolutely tremendous, and there is much to enjoy (and cry over), but the by-the-numbers story-telling smacks of manipulation and formula.

The film opens with Jess in labour, roundly abusing her midwife, and yelling for Milly. Then follows a cheesy voice-overed montage, telling us how the girls were there for each other at every important event in each others’ lives. We see how Milly was the wild child, snaring a husband from the music industry and working in a high profile PR job, both situations where image is important, while Jess is more down to earth and lives on a London barge. She and Jago want nothing more than to have a baby.

When the initial diagnosis comes, Milly tries desperately to keep up her cool sexy image, including a strangely disturbing scene in which she tries to explain cancer treatment to her kids using a warfare-based animation. As Milly’s situation deteriorates, Collette really comes into her own as the fearless actress we know and love, channelling the conflicting emotions that come with the territory and giving her body over to the depredations of the disease. Barrymore plays the stoic friend, almost too good to be true, until Milly spirals into some weird and unbelievable behaviour, and the two have a huge brawl in the middle of Bronte country in the Yorkshire moors.

Some scenes in the film have real potency, especially those centring around Milly’s physical deterioration. The film doesn’t shy away from mastectomy scars or the effects such operations can have on self-image and a couple’s sex life. Nor does it avoid the awfulness of palliative care and approaching death. These are the strongest parts of the story, as is the black humour to be gleaned from scenes about hair loss and wigs. The women’s relationships with their men is almost secondary to the deep unbreakable love that is their friendship.

And yet every time the film seems to capture something truly remarkable, it lets itself down with an over-abundance of songs with pointedly meaningful lyrics or scenes that are played for unnecessary humour or to cue a desired emotional response.

For all that, Miss You Already deals with subject matter of widespread relevance. For many women breast cancer strikes at the essence of what it means to feel feminine and desirable and Barrymore and Collette manage to capture the importance of lifelong female friendship at such a critical time.




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