Miss You Already, a touching and heartbreaking new release, is exemplary in chronicling the cancer experience with all its ups and downs. As an interesting twist, writer Morwenna Banks puts it in the context of a friendship between lifelong girlfriends. Milly (Collette) is diagnosed with breast cancer just when her friend Jess (Drew Barrymore) is trying to get pregnant. The two have grown up together, sharing all the important “firsts” in their lives. Both are married now, Jess to Jago (Considine) and Milly to Kit (Cooper), but they remain just as close as ever.
When Milly gets diagnosed, she turns first to Jess, and Jess is prepared to be the best friend possible. She does as much of the caretaking as Milly’s husband Kit does—not because Kit is avoiding responsibility, but because it seems natural to all of them. As time goes on, Milly’s treatment is extended and Jess continues to be drawn away from home, Jago begins mildly complaining, but accedes to his wife’s plea for compassion for Milly.
Sometime along the way, Jess does get pregnant, but the couple has additional stress with Jago taking a position at an offshore drilling site so they can afford the fertility treatments and make room for the baby. That means he will be away from home periodically.
Two of the themes of Miss You Already are the kinds of responses patients and their families have to cancer and varying ways of coping with it. In Milly’s case, she tends toward an “everything will be all right” outlook, so she is unprepared when she gets disappointing news. Further, she is not one to talk readily about negative things, so initially does what many people are inclined to do; she keeps quiet about it. Finally, she begins coping by acting out, endangering all her close relationships.
In the meantime, Jess is disinclined to share her good news in her own life with Milly out of consideration of what Milly is going through. They eventually become estranged, and their marriages suffer some of the consequences.
The viewer is likely to guess how everything will turn out, but there may be a few surprises along the way.
All four actors, along with Bisset as Milly’s self-absorbed mother, are expert in portraying their characters. They convince us of their close relationships and their actions and behavior are consistent with the characters’ personality styles. Catherine Hardwicke’s direction shows good pacing in the action and attention given to significant turns in the plot.
Although I think Miss You Already scores in depicting the experience of cancer, I think it goes too far in implying that there is absolutely nothing worse in the world. Well, believe me, there are worse things, and it’s a mistake to lead the audience to think everyone else’s lives should stop for the patient with the disease. Milly seems to have no limits on what she expects of her loved ones just because she has cancer, and until her husband and friend begin to set some limits do we feel that the movie goes forward.
The film also goes too far in clichéd pairings, e.g., birth and death, and the coincidence that the two husbands involved would both be so sweet and understanding of their wives’ actions. That would be most unusual in real life; many husbands would at least be quicker to set limits, let alone even abdicate their responsibilities.
Miss You Already is likely to appeal to those who are curious but haven’t had much experience with cancer or a serious, life-threatening illness. But I think most people will find it either too realistic or even hyper-real, and be turned off. It’s greatest strength is watching the talented, skilled actors perform.
A film that immerses the viewer in the cancer experience.
Grade: C By Donna R. Copeland