Who says there aren’t any good female driven films out there? Director Catherine Hardwicke (Thirteen, Twilight) has shifted gears and created a tearjerker for women. ‘The Fault in Our Stars’ featured Shailene Woodley perfectly capturing the highs and lows of a teenager struggling with cancer. Hardwicke’s new movie ‘Miss You Already’ hits the same mark with Drew Barrymore and Toni Collette playing thirtysomething BFFs (Best Friends Forever). The story is about female friendships and a woman’s fight against breast cancer. The screenplay by Morwenna Banks finds the right balance of light humor and weepy moments. Hardwicke smartly depicts the emotional and physical toll a woman goes through with unflinching honesty.
In an opening montage, we see Jess (Barrymore) and Milly (Collette) growing up as friends since they were school kids. Jess moved to England from the states and bonded with Milly during her first day of class. In adulthood, they move on with their lives but are still close friends. Milly finds happiness pursuing a fast-paced PR career and marrying her rockstar boyfriend Kit (Dominic Cooper). They have two cute kids and live in a cool townhouse in London. Jess works for a social service organization and lives with her lovable lug Jago (Paddy Considine) on a houseboat. They spend most of their time trying to conceive a baby. For the movie to work, you have to believe that these two women are close friends. The chemistry between Barrymore and Collette feels genuine.
Soon after, Milly pays a visit to an oncologist who gives her the bad news. She is diagnosed with malignant breast cancer. It’s obviously devastating news and what the script gets right is how unfair it feels to her when everything else in her life is going right. She has a great career, two beautiful kids and a doting husband. The script does a fine job of portraying the opposite trajectories of the two women. While Milly is dealing with the possibility of death, Jess is struggling to get pregnant with a baby. It is poignant as their friendship confronts the life and death cycles of life. It’s a magnificent performance by Collette as she faces the harsh reality of cancer treatment. Hardwicke pulls no punches as Milly must face the disease head on. She deals with the nausea of chemotherapy, the embarrassment of losing her hair and ultimately the scars of her mastectomy. Collette’s portrayal is brutally raw as she goes through the emotional rollercoaster ride of being scared and angry. Hardwicke deserves kudos for not making Milly a hero. She’s depicted as a hot mess who believes that she’s losing her sex appeal.
There is a gut-wrenching scene when she tries on wigs after losing her hair. Cheering her on is Jess and Milly’s movie actress mom Miranda (Jacqueline Bisset). Bisset is terrific as her self-absorbed and lithe mother who tries her best to console her daughter with mixed results. The film also gets it right by showing Milly’s selfishness throughout her illness. It not only has negative effects on her but her friends and family. Jess even feels the stress as she is afraid to steal the spotlight away from Milly and tell her that she is finally pregnant. Her husband Jago thinks it is unfair that they cannot share the happiest moment of their life. He runs off to work on an oil rig and leaves Jess to fend for herself. Another beautiful scene typifies Jess and Milly’s friendship as they embark on a spontaneous road trip to the North Yorkshire Moors to pay homage to ‘Wuthering Heights.’ It allows the girls to bond one last time singing to the R.E.M. tune “Losing My Religion.” It’s a bleak and sublime landscape as the two women air out their frustrations with each other.
It’s refreshing to see two strong female characters that rely on each other and not just men in the story. Their husbands are certainly important to them but it explores the unconditional love they have for each other. Barrymore is adorable in the role but it’s Collette that gets to show off her acting range here. Real friendships last a lifetime. Oprah Winfrey’s quote on friendship is apropos here – “Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down.” In the case of ‘Miss You Already,’ it is taking a London cab ride to the Moors. If you want to see a film that shows the strong bond of female friendship, don’t miss this weepy gem. Check out the official trailer https://youtu.be/AYDGecOfkj0.