By Laurie Coker
Miss you Already, starring Drew Barrymore and Toni Collette, offers a warm embrace to friendship, love, and inner strength. While the subject matter isn’t always joyful, the themes presented by screenwriter Morwenna Banks are universal and director Catherine Hardwicke’s approach draws us into his dynamic and real characters. Collette and Barrymore and the support ensemble cast pour their hearts out and take ours in, leaving each of us emotionally exhausted and yet, completely satisfied.
Milly (Collette) and Jess’ (Barrymore) friendship began when Jess moved from America to London in primary school. The more brazen and abstentious Milly fills any room or life she enters, including Jess’, whose stable and sensible personality balances out their relationship. As adults, both married – Milly with two children and Jess trying desperately with husband, Jago (Paddy Considine) to conceive – Milly’s world that really rules Jess’. Milly’s husband, Kit (Dominique Cooper) does his best to harness in the sheer, storm like energy of his wife and he loves like passionately, but when cancer strikes Milly, her inherent self-destructive behavior cracks the otherwise impenetrable walls of love and friendship.
I went to school with Hardwick, her cousin and her sister, Irene, now and artist in Oregon, and back then the sisters moved to their own beat, and we all loved them for it – quirky clothes, wild thigh high stockings, and Catherine often wore interesting things on her head – a bird’s nest with a bird and little blue eggs as an example, and she even showed up for graduation with a plastic lobster glued to her mortarboard. Her creativity shone through then and does now.
Hardwick’s hand behind the camera is both aggressive and gentle. Her Lords of Dogtown, though not as well-known for her direction as Twilight and Thirteen, is my favorite of hers thus far. With Miss You Already her vision and telling from behind the camera is significant. As a cancer survivor myself, I walked easily in Milly’s shoes, but I also understand Jess. It is Milly’s weighty gravitational pull that tugs at Jess, and it is the “co-stars” of their lives that ground them both, This wonderful cast and Hardwick tell the story with wit and dramatic sophistication and making darker moments less bleak and still wholly real.
In spite of the significant subject matter, seeing the characters and connecting to them make every moment watching worthwhile. Even with cancer at its core, Hardwick’s gift for capturing reality, coupled with the humor that often infuses sadness and drearier times, Miss You Already entertains in its realism. A visit to a happy place might help to lift the subsequent gloom, but still, the journey with best friends Jess and Milly, and those who love them, deserves an A from me.