When you enter a movie knowing that incessant sobbing is an inevitability, you hope the tears are worthwhile. It’s easy to make someone cry, but it’s much harder to make them feel each separate droplet. Miss You Already is such a movie that spells crushing depression in the logline alone, and needs to balance misery with tender love in order to successfully tackle its bleak, cancer-battling theme.
It’s not an easy pill to swallow, and such darkness can feel like a constant pummelling without some bright relief every now and then. We need some sort of human relief, like the lighter interludes that director Catherine Hardwicke permits in serviceable doses. There’s no answer provided for one of life’s biggest questions, but the film’s outlook represents a small step forward in understanding how humans cope – just be sure to bring a box of tissues.
Morwenna Banks’ screenplay follows Milly (Toni Collette), and how her ongoing battle with cancer shapes the relationships with those she cares about most. Her husband Kit (Dominic Cooper) struggles to deal with feelings of neglect in their marriage, her mother Miranda (Jacqueline Bisset) makes up for lost time, and BFF Jess (Drew Barrymore) attempts to grant her every wish, but there’s no answer for how to deal with Milly’s condition – which becomes obvious when good intentions are met with outbursts and fleeing. It’s a story about unconditional love in the worst of times, comfort in a time of grief-laced uncertainty, and a few icon-clad wills amongst all.
So here’s the big question – are the waterworks worth it? Yes and no. As I said, Hardwicke and Banks bring ample amounts of emotional construction to Milly’s journey, but it’s overly gut-punchy at times. With almost two hours worth of bad news, we feel the weight of Milly’s sentence through unrelenting pain. Toni Collette seeks a sense of inner serenity in Milly, which does help establish some sense of comforting hope in such a – for lack of a better phrase – doomed character, and her calming facade is enough to fend of a cloud of looming depression. Honestly, Miss You Already could have been infinitely more morose, but Collette’s strength is a vivacious saving grace.
Then again, those of you who can’t handle this close a look into the lifecycle of a cancer patient will want to avoid Miss You Already at all costs. Hardwicke does not shy away from treatments, symptoms, and reality with her lens, and those nursing fresh wounds may find Milly’s predicament hitting extremely too close to home. It’s such a film that ambitiously goes for broke in representing cancer in cinema, but such a decision will ultimately turn certain viewers off. Those expecting a buddy-drama akin to Jonathan Levine’s 50/50 are in for a downward spiral of serious confrontation, which is the movie Hardwicke set out to make – just keep your expectations straight.
That said, Collette is surrounded by a powerful support system, much like her character Milly. Barrymore is the cautious-yet-fun best friend, Cooper her roadie-turned-businessman husband, and Bisset as a mother who is just trying her best. They are real people, caught in a real struggle that has no happy ending – even though they’re asked to find one. Collette’s positivity is admirable, but her breakdowns at the deliverance of bad news unlock the film’s somber, unfortunate core, and her co-stars dictate how we feel about each moment. Whether it be her naked honesty after what could be a life-saving mastectomy, or her chocolate-tossing tirade amidst friends at a surprise birthday party, this is a movie about Milly, no matter how much screen time other characters may get. Miss You Already has trouble explaining HOW to cope, but it’s an interesting glimpse into the lives of numerous people who are TRYING.
If anything, Miss You Already is about appreciation. There’s no telling when the proverbial clock will run out, so embrace every moment like Milly does. If there’s a message that Hardwicke and Banks want us to walk away with, I’m hoping that’s the one they picked. If not, and without remaining somewhat strong throughout this emotional barrage, you’ll be left wondering why you subjected yourself to the worst years of someone’s otherwise picturesque life. For what it is, Miss You Already possesses a chemistry that’s worthy enough for those in the mood for a downish-note friendship drama, but it’s an experience I’ll probably never subject myself to again – a strange sign of approval, but approval nonetheless.
Miss You Already is one gut-punch followed by the next, but there's enough emotional salvation to navigate us over a sea of down-notes and sad tears.