Miss You Already movie review: best friends forever, for real

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Miss You Already green light

Authentically female in how it gets inside a lifelong friendship between two women, and as wisely funny as it is sharply poignant.
I’m “biast” (pro): love the cast, desperate for movies about women

I’m “biast” (con): nothing

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

It is a great tragedy of our culture that men are not encouraged to have the same sort of intensely emotional and hugely supportive relationships among themselves that women have with other women. Men are forced to find their emotional support, sometimes their only such support, from wives or girlfriends, while their wives and girlfriends have entire networks of friends — who slot into a sometimes massive and ever-shifting hierarchy that starts with Occasional Drinking Buddy to BFF — to whom we turn for advice, encouragement, mutual bitching sessions, pats on the back, and so much more.

So what do men see when they look at a movie such as Miss You Already? Does it look phony? Does it seem overly sentimental and unrealistic? Are they jealous that they have been denied, by the pressures our culture places on them, such passionate and intimate friendships? Does it make them uncomfortable to get a peek inside the part of women’s lives that don’t include men, and to see how rich and satisfying and complicated it can be?

Cuz this is the real thing right here: Miss You is authentically female in how it gets inside a lifelong friendship between two women, and how important that friendship is to them and how unshakeable it is even at the worst of times. While the film is powerfully emotional — at the screening I attended, there were packs of Kleenex on the seats, and they were most definitely needed — it is not “sentimental” in the derogatory sense that word usually implies. This is the sort of movie we can get only when women are writing and directing movies; the script here is by Morwenna Banks, and Catherine Hardwicke (Twilight, Lords of Dogtown) directed. That’s not because all women’s friendships are exactly alike, or because all women are exactly alike. It’s because of that artificial cultural divide. There are some insights into women’s lives that, at this moment in time, only women can have.

I don’t think I’ve ever had a friend as radically different from me as the earthy, almost hippie-ish Jess (Drew Barrymore: Blended, Big Miracle) has in wacky rock-chick Milly (Toni Collette: The Boxtrolls, Hector and the Search for Happiness). But I think almost all women would recognize the cornerstone of their relationship: your best friend is family. There is no question about this. A woman’s best friend might even be more family that her actual family. (“Best Friend Forever” is not a joke or an exaggeration. We mean this.) That’s not to say that that friendship won’t go through ups and downs, as Jess and Milly’s does here, but the relationship itself is not in question, as Jess and Milly’s never is here. Miss You is about coping when bad stuff happens… but also when good stuff happens at the same time! The central conflict of the movie is Milly versus breast cancer, but this is complicated by the fact that Jess, who has been trying to have a baby for a long while, is torn about sharing the good news when she finally does find herself pregnant with the person she is closest to after her husband, or maybe even before him. (Paddy Considine [Child 44, Pride] and Dominic Cooper [Dracula Untold, Need for Speed] as, respectively, Jess and Milly’s husbands are wonderful in supporting roles that give them more scope and more of a journey than women in supportive-wife roles usually get.) The fortunes of best friends don’t always rise and fall at the same time, and this can be very stressful when you care as deeply about someone else as Jess does Milly.

So this isn’t a Cancer Movie, though there is plenty that is cancer-related. (The scene in which Milly gets her head shaved in advance of losing it to chemo is a masterful example of unsentimentality. It is, like much of the movie, as wisely funny as it is sharply poignant.) Miss You is a friendship movie of the likes we hardly ever see; it will be compared to Beaches, which isn’t quite fair — that was about the two best friends entire lives, as this one is not — but even if it were fair, the need to reach back almost 30 years to find a similar movie is a condemnation of the movie industry, not a condemnation of Miss You Already. (Imagine if it were 30 years between lone-wolf action flicks or superhero movies. Or between man-versus-nature movies like Everest or The Martian. There isn’t even two weeks between those!) Barrymore and Collette could not be more perfect or more plausibly devoted to each other — theirs is the sort of onscreen chemistry that even films supposedly about passionate romance rarely achieve. They both seem to breathe with invigorated purpose in roles that allow them to be angry and afraid, that do not require them to be noble or saintly. That are, in other words, fully human.

There is one unrealistic thing in this movie: the fact that it’s set in London and Barrymore’s character is supposed to have been living there since she was a small child yet still retains her American accent. That’s it. The rest of it? Spot on when it comes to women’s lives. Oh, and it’s pretty unrealistic that a movie that gets women should be such an anomaly.

See also my #WhereAreTheWomen rating of Miss You Already for its representation of girls and women.

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Mon, Sep 28, 2015 2:37pm

It’s also pretty rare in film to have two women who simply get on with each other rather than being in conflict, usually over a man. (Unless they’re grandmother/granddaughter.)

Mon, Sep 28, 2015 6:11pm

actually, the accent thing is minor. accents are an odd thing. my sister lived in a southern state from the time she was 11, but has fought her entire life to retain at least a northeastern accent (even if she never quite retained her new york accent). and some people just don’t have the “ear” their first accent remains their lifelong accent.

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  bronxbee
Mon, Sep 28, 2015 7:14pm

Yes, that’s true. But the Barrymore character is even younger than 11 when she moves to the UK. Still, it’s the tiniest of “problems” with the movie.

Hank Graham
Hank Graham
reply to  MaryAnn Johanson
Mon, Sep 28, 2015 8:02pm

I dunno, I have a semi-adopted daughter who was from Russia. Living in London for several years now, she tells me (after a conversation with a friend over there) that she hasn’t gotten an English accent, although she retains a soft Russian accent in every language she speaks (seven of them, so far). However, her American husband, they have noticed, is finding that his accent is slightly changing, in ways that sound more English to his family back in the States.

I’ve also read that Stanley Kubrick kept a resolute Brooklyn accent without a trace of Englishness until the day he died.

My conclusion is that it changes from individual to individual, as in most things human.

How’s your accent doing?

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  Hank Graham
Tue, Jan 19, 2016 2:41pm

I haven’t picked up an accent either. Yes, it depends on the individual, but I would be stunned to discover a very small child who retained his or her accent after moving to a different country and staying there forever.

Sat, Oct 03, 2015 9:50am

Boys on the Side had similar themes of women’s friendships, and that came out in 1995. So only 20 years!

(Sigh …)

Sat, Oct 03, 2015 10:05am

Just had a thought about the review you linked to on Facebook a few days ago … the one where the male reviewer complained about the portrayal of the friendship:

“We barely get any time with the two leads before the diagnosis, meaning the basic rules of their friendship, which we are frequently told is strong, fail to register. We don’t really get to see how they connect on a day-to-day basis and we’re informed about their friendship via the lazy art of montage rather than genuine development.”

I can’t know whether I’ll agree with him until I see the movie (which I now want to do based on your review), but what you said about men and friendships may hint at why he had a different reaction to it than you did. Maybe he has less experience with this kind of friendship and needs its dynamics explained, whereas people who do have friendships like this (who are more likely to be female) can fill in the blanks themselves.

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  cinderkeys
Sat, Oct 03, 2015 12:34pm

Very likely. Which is why we need more female film critics, so that the “consensus” on movies doesn’t amount to “what do straight white men think?”.