This platonic love story is melodrama at its best though tacky humor threatens to sour the pot.
Miss You Already
Milly (Toni Collette) and Jess (Drew Barrymore) have been done everything together since they were kids, but their friendship threatens to splinter when Jess is blessed with a new life while Milly’s is cut tragically short. Miss You Already is a powerful, sincere cancer drama that explores beautifully the anguish and frustration of dealing with a terminal disease. Milly and Jess run through myriad coping mechanisms in the final chapter of their lifelong friendship though one of them—humor—becomes the film’s greatest weakness.
Directed by Catherine Hardwicke and written by Morwenna Banks, the movie is full of levity—as is the case with most best friends, much of Milly and Jess’ friendship is defined by laughter. None of the comedy works, however, which is sad considering the film’s dramatic beats are so excellently handled. Nevertheless, in this case, the positives outweigh the negatives. Platonic love stories are a rare commodity at the movies these days, and Miss You Already is one that will leave a lasting impression.
The movie quickly lays out the friends’ history in storybook fashion: a young Jess moves to England from Americ and meets Milly, who’s quick to protect her from bullies and share her favorite British curse words. From then on, all of their formative life experiences are shared: they kiss boys for the first time together, they go to a concert where Milly loses her virginity to a rock god backstage, and Jess offers bedside emotional support during the births of Milly’s two children. Now deep into adulthood, Milly’s a successful publicist and has a family with her husband, Kit (Dominic Cooper), while Jess works for a non-profit and lives on a houseboat with her husband, Jago (Paddy Considine).
When Milly is diagnosed with terminal cancer, the friendship is dealt a heavy blow. Milly nosedives, falling back into bad habits (drinking, lies, infidelity) as Jess tries her best to be the best cheerleader she can. She and Jago have been trying to have a baby for a long time, but when she receives the wonderful news that they’re finally pregnant, she can’t bring herself to tell Milly as she vomits and her hair falls out from the chemo. Milly’s always been self-centered and needy, a characteristic her condition only amplifies, and when Jess catches her in a hurtful lie it’s the last straw. She’s not the only one driven away by Milly’s sour attitude, as Kit finds himself struggling to continue loving her when all her best qualities have faded away. He throws her a surprise birthday party; she throws food at her friends and storms out. He tries to help her with the kids; she gives him the cold shoulder.
These moments of friction are acted and written so incredibly well and are so powerful that it becomes a herculean task to hold back tears as you watch. It’s melodramatic through and through, but the honesty of the acting breaks down any notion that there’s artifice involved. You couldn’t ask for a better performance from Collette, who’s a thunderstorm of rage and venom and passion in every scene. It’s intense stuff she delivers, but Barrymore balances out the act with calmness and wordless compassion that warms the soul. Her best moments involve Jess saying nothing at all and just opening her eyes and ears, thinking deeply about how exactly she’s going to help her best friend. Cooper and Considine know exactly how to make an impression without forgetting that the show belongs to their female counterparts. They do get a nice little scene together, though, in which the two husbands joke that they should perhaps run off together and start life anew as a bromantic couple.
It can be irritating being around two friends who communicate almost entirely in inside jokes, and that’s what Miss You Already feels like a lot of the time. The story swells and reaches great heights when it deals with personal drama, but all of that emotion dries up every time Jess and Milly exchange jokey banter. Inside jokes are fine, but as an audience member you’d hope you wouldn’t be left on the outside. Barrymore and Collette often seem like they’re fighting with the tacky material, but it’s a fight they ultimately win; however many times you roll your eyes at Jess and Milly, you can’t help but get caught up in their tearjerker of a story.