“Often those that watch find it hardest.”
These words, spoken by a wig maker to the best friend of a of middle-aged cancer patient who is about to have her head shaved, form one of many striking statements in the 2015 British film “Miss You Already.” The lead characters, Jess, played by Drew Barrymore, and Milly, played by Toni Collette, give a tremendous performance depicting two life-long friends attempting to survive cancer together.
The 112-minute long film, directed by Catherine Hardwicke and produced by New Sparta Films and S Films, immediately leads the viewer into a reflection of charming childhood memories between the two best friends, from first kisses to parental funerals. Banks’ screenplay skillfully ties the two friends together, setting up the powerful 23-year relationship between two besties who are wildly different from each other.
Banks wastes no time introducing Milly’s cancer, which rocks the world of the middle-aged PR executive. From that point on, the film delves into the effects of Milly’s chemotherapy, from hair loss to constant vomiting. Jess, who stays by Milly’s side through it all, is the quintessential best friend, even postponing her IVF treatments in order to help her friend through her treatment. The juxtaposition of looming death and anticipated life immediately takes the film to a deeper level than already posed by Milly’s cancer.
There is no doubt that Banks deeply considered the dynamic dialogue in “Miss You Already” when she wrote the story-line. For example, the movie title is a term of endearment the two best friends say to each other before parting ways one afternoon. Another striking sentence spoken by fearless Milly is when she pre-orders a vodka tonic in heaven in case she dies.
Jess eventually becomes pregnant, but keeps it a secret since Milly has been told she needs a double mastectomy. Banks then takes the viewer through a string of maddening Milly moments. Literally scared to death, she acts out with alcohol and infidelity. While cheating on her husband, she also manipulates Jess, who walks away from the friendship. Growing apart proves personally fulfilling for both friends, who live for the first time ever without the other.
By the end of Jess’s pregnancy, Milly learns that her cancer has spread to her brain and she has limited time to live. After waiting for a while, she asks forgiveness from Jess, who of course, pardons her with great love.
The life and death connection Banks creates throughout the story climaxes when we return to the first scene of the film, when Jess, in labor, is calling out for Milly, who is now in hospice.
Banks way of dealing with the dread of death along with the birth of Jess’s child, makes “Miss You Already” an ideal film that deals with the circle of life.