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MISS YOU ALREADY: 3 ½ STARS. “designed to open the tear ducts.”

Screen Shot 2015-11-02 at 10.44.25 AMThere are two and three hanky movies and then there are films like “Miss You Already” that demand more extreme measures. It’s one of those stories that is bound to inspire both happy and sad crying, so bring a box of Kleenex, or better yet, an absorbent towel.

Drew Barrymore and Toni Collette are Jess and Milly, childhood friends who have remained close even though their lives have taken different paths. Jess is an environmentalist, an earth mother who lives on a Thames houseboat with her husband Jago (Paddy Considine). Milly is a self-centered publicist, mother of two, married to a former roadie-turned-millionaire Kit (Dominic Cooper).

When Milly is diagnosed with breast cancer, her best friend is at her side but when the cancer comes back as Jess and Jago are expecting their first child the decades long relationship becomes strained.

“Miss You Already” begins as a light-hearted romp but develops into something deeper. As Milly’s cancer progresses the movie stays with her at every step, from disbelief, to anger, to denial and finally acceptance. It is unflinching—anyone who has experienced chemo will feel a twinge during the early scenes—and doesn’t pull any punches with its depiction of the treatments or its characters. Milly doesn’t become the poor sainted cancer victim we’ve seen in other films, instead she stays true to the character we met at the film’s start, likeable but not always loveable. Collette keeps it real as she works through the stages of the disease.

Barrymore brings her usual warmth and amiability but the real star is the portrayal of the effect of cancer on its victim, friends and family. “Miss You Already” captures the frustration and sadness inherent to the process but also the humour. “I look like a leopard,” Milly says as her thinning hair is shaved off. “A leper or a leopard?” replies her hairdresser.

“Miss You Already” has moments clearly designed to open the tear ducts but for the most part director Catherine Hardwicke doesn’t get maudlin, treating the material with respect but not with kid gloves.

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