In the interest of getting “hard” copies of my work under one roof, I plan to spend the next few weeks posting the entire archive of my film journalism here on ScullyVision. With due respect to the many publications I’ve written for, the internet remains quite temporary, and I’d hate to see any of my work disappear for digital reasons. As such, this gargantuan project must begin! I don’t want to do it. I hate doing it. But it needs to be done. Please note that my opinions, like everyone’s, have changed a LOT since I started, so many of these reviews will only represent a snapshot in time. Objectivity has absolutely no place in film criticism, at least not how I do it.
Despite being a bit cliche-ridden, the performances and the heart at the center of Miss You Already elevate the film beyond the realm of dismissible. While it doesn’t quite reach the realm of essential, it comes close. Jess and Milly (Drew Barrymore and Toni Collette, respectively) have been friends since childhood. When Jess was a young American in England, she and Milly became fast friends and moved through each and every of life’s many rites of passage as a team. From their first kiss, through their first drunken night out, all the way to their charming-but-different adult lives, Jess and Milly have been side by side. Now all grown up, Jess lives on a houseboat with her philanthropist/blue collar husband Jago (Paddy Considine), with whom she is trying desperately to have a child. Milly works as a PR rep and lives with her husband, roadie-turned-salesman, Kit (Dominic Cooper), and their two children. The young women’s lives are distinctly different, but both are nothing if not happy.
One day, Milly finds out that she has a malignant lump in her breast, and so begins the meat of our story. Yet, what could easily be a depressing slog, tugging on our emotions to earn narrative validity, ends up being a rather uplifting tale of friendship and grace in the face of tragic circumstances. It’s also quite funny. This is almost entirely due to the performances of our lead actresses. If they weren’t both such recognizable faces, I’d believe that the two of them are actually lifelong friends, and as they ride the ups and downs of their respective situations (Jess having a hard time conceiving, and Milly’s cancer diagnosis growing increasingly dire), the film becomes less about the disease that pushes the narrative, and more about the value of friendship.
Kudos to the writer (Morwenna Banks, adapting her own radio play) for not leaning too heavily on histrionics, instead letting the characters make mistakes and act like real people. Too many times I’ve seen similarly themed dramas paint a character as a victim, and then give them a free pass to act selfishly and treat others like garbage. Miss You Already almost lost me when it appeared to be going this route, when it suddenly changed its tune and allowed me to feel justified in being put-off by a character’s behavior. Moreover, the film also focuses a lens on what can cause a suffering person to behave such a reckless way. It’s beautiful in its even-handedness, and makes a strong case for the concept that even those who are merely associated with someone who is facing mortality are apt to suffer along with them. It is in these moments that I found the film to be more open-minded and emotionally engaging than I could have ever expected (I honestly thought this was going to be a Nicholas Sparks-ish affair, complete with antiquated ethics).
The biggest success here is how much emotion the film manages to evoke while still maintaining a sense of joy. Much in the way a teary film like Marley & Me, despite being a tear-jerker, serves to celebrate how great it is to have a dog, Miss You Already celebrates how important it is to have friends, and if you have a best friend – or even a few really good ones – you’ll certainly feel the need to give them a hug once the credits roll.
Miss You Already opens in Philly theaters today.