There’s a moment in Catherine Hardwicke’s stirring and emotive drama Miss You Already that is symbolic of why this picture is better than it initially appears to be. It’s when our two protagonists, one healthy and pregnant, one dying of cancer, head off to the Yorkshire Moors. It’s a beautifully spontaneous, and seemingly final trip, of two best friends visiting a place that means a lot to them and their friendship. The soundtrack to this adventure could so easily have been something banal and sentimental, but it’s not. It’s Losing My Religion by R.E.M. a terrific track that instantly turns a potentially nauseatingly scene into a rather tender one. It’s a classy choice, and is emblematic of a film that has all the makings of an overtly mawkish, Fault in Our Stars bore-fest – but instead manages to surprise and engage the viewer in a way you may not have expected.
The two ladies in question, are Jess (Drew Barrymore) and Milly (Toni Collette) – two lifelong friends, now faced with a rather difficult obstacle to overcome; the latter has an aggressive form of cancer. With a supportive husband in Kit (Dominic Cooper) and two charming young children, Milly is undertaking a course of chemotherapy, struggling with the nausea that transpires, and the losing of her hair. In the meantime, Jess is wanting to celebrate the news that her IVF treatment has proven successful, and she’s to have her first child with her partner Jago (Paddy Considine) – though any such celebrations may well have to be put on hold, as Milly’s condition worsens.
Though at times Miss You Already does become somewhat cliched, and horribly saccharine in its approach – Hardwicke should still be commended for dealing with issues seldom seen in cinema. Transcending your hackneyed cancer-themed drama, we look into how certain implications of the treatment take their toll on this particular woman. Such as how her double mastectomy affects her sexual confidence, as we look into how she’s losing her identity, and any sense of vanity, needing to feel wanted again by the opposite sex. Issues that will exist in women having to go through such a physical transformation, and yet those we rarely explore or study in film.
But Miss You Already works, primarily, because Milly is not a sympathetic character. She’s flawed, she makes mistakes – and she’s human. You have to work hard to pity her, and even Jess refers to her at one stage as a ‘cancer bully’ – as we look into how she uses her illness to get what she wants. We deviate away from being your typical story of a ‘brave’ woman, or a ‘hero’ or other such words we tend to associate with those unfortunate enough to fall ill with such a horrific disease. Barrymore’s subtle performance enhances this notion, and as she avoids melodrama, and as our entry point into this tale, it means we do too. She’s not pandering to her best friend, crying by her bedside and screaming “why!” up towards the heavens. She’s distinctively calm, and it’s refreshing to see – while it also means that when she does break down, it means so much more as we’re not used to seeing it happen.
Any such subtlety doesn’t quite extend to the narrative however, with a rather contrived juxtaposition between happy and sad, as we follow the traditional beats of the genre, in how we move between Milly’s pain, and Jess’ gain. But at least it does prevent this film being a complete misery fest – but don’t let that fool you; because you will need to pack a few packets of tissues for this one, because you will cry. Yes, even you. And you.