Latest figures in Australia, the US and the UK reveal that one in eight women will develop breast cancer during their lifetime. So how do you create a movie on this topic that is watchable and relatable and enjoyable? That was the challenge confronting the filmmakers responsible for Miss You Already.
This dramatic comedic romance plays heavily on ratcheting up the drama surrounding a wild child, Milly, played by Toni Collette. She and Jess (Drew Barrymore) have been all but lifelong friends. They met when Jess (or, at least, her younger alter ego), an American, landed in London. Now, as adults, Milly has a high flying PR job, a rock star husband Kit (Dominic Cooper) and two young children, while Jess has dedicated herself to environmental work. She lives with her boyfriend Jago (Paddy Considine) on a houseboat on the London canals, but remains “tight as” with Milly. It seems that nothing is insurmountable when this pair gets together, but then the big “C” stops them in their tracks. Milly is diagnosed with breast cancer and at first gradually and later at pace her stable world falls apart. Jess, meanwhile, is having trouble falling pregnant and that is causing a few heated moments in her relationship with her boyfriend.
The idea for this film had been with writer Morwenna Banks for many years. While it is a work of fiction, breast cancer touched her life and the lives of several people around her within a short time frame. It seemed to her that it was almost an epidemic. As a result, she felt passionate about trying to write something that showed what happens when such a bomb falls into the lives of ordinary people. People with families and, specifically, younger women, are what this film deals with.
Directed by Catherine Hardwicke (Twilight), the material presented is uneven. I understand given the gravity of an aggressive form of cancer at the heart of this movie that the filmmakers wanted to take a different approach by playing up Collette character’s hijinks, but I found the shifts in persona difficult to take. Endearing, with boundless energy, full of life and cheeky as heck one moment, then willing to throw her whole family away the next just didn’t wash. Shock value is one thing, but credibility is another entirely.
Now don’t get me wrong, Collette does what she is asked to do as the with-it vixen transposed, thanks to some super make-up, to a sullen shell, while Barrymore played “sweet” well enough, as she always does. So, my qualms are not so much with the acting, rather the characterisations.
Clearly they didn’t want to make a documentary, nor just a full-on weepie, so they threw just about all they could think of into Milly to create a sexy wife and devoted mother with an uninhibited pedigree. And they attributed part of that to her twice-married mother, a television actress in her day, played by a still very fetching Jacqueline Bisset.
Miss You Already certainly has tearjerker elements, but ultimately it becomes a bit of a licorice all-sorts and misses the mark. Rated M, it scores a 6 out of 10.
Director: Catherine Hardwicke
Cast: Drew Barrymore, Toni Collette, Dominic Cooper, Paddy Considine
Release Date: 8 October 2015
David Edwards is the editor of The Blurb and a contributor on film and television