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Cinema reviews: Miss You Already & Life

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4 stars
In 1988, Beaches, starring Bette Midler and Barbara Hershey, was the weepie du jour for a generation of women hankering for a bittersweet portrait of steadfast sisterly solidarity.

Bottom lips still quiver, more than 25 years later, to the first notes of Midler’s soaring ballad, Wind Beneath My Wings.

It has been a long wait, but actress Morwenna Banks provides 21st-century gal pals with their own sobathon as screenwriter of this occasionally foul-mouthed comedy drama set in the shadow of breast cancer.

There are tears aplenty in Catherine Hardwicke’s film, predominantly shed by lead actresses Toni Collette and Drew Barrymore as they rage against a cruel disease that affects one in eight women in the UK.

Toni Collette, left, and Drew Barrymore in Miss You Already
Toni Collette, left, and Drew Barrymore in Miss You Already

There is humour and pathos, too, not least in one beautifully handled scene between a wigmaker (Frances de la Tour) and Collette’s patient, as they select a new permanent hairdo to replace the flowing locks lost to chemotherapy.

Pleasingly, Banks’s script doesn’t paint characters as saints or martyrs.

They are deeply flawed and behave badly, even at their lowest ebb, propelling a wrecking ball through a marriage when they should be fighting for survival.

Collette and Barrymore play best friends Milly and Jess, who met at school and have shared pivotal coming-of-age moments.

Now thirtysomething and fabulous in radically different ways, the pals are braced for middle age.

Milly is a PR executive with a handsome husband, Kit (Dominic Cooper), and two cherubic offspring, Scarlett (Honor Kneafsey) and Ben (Ryan Lennon Baker).

Bohemian earth mother Jess lives on a house boat with her oil-rigger husband, Jago (Paddy Considine), and cluckily prepares for the arrival of their first child.

FILM Reviews 101470

Out of the blue, Milly is diagnosed with cancer and has to confront her mortality without her designer high heels.

As usual, Jess is by her side every painful step of the way, including a double mastectomy that forces Milly to question her femininity.

Timed for release ahead of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Miss You Already is galvanised by believable screen chemistry shared by the two leads.

Barrymore oozes adorability, while Collette has the meatier role and teases out the selfishness of her ambitious career woman, who has always prided herself on being able to arouse her husband.

Scenes of Milly pre and post-surgery are moving, leavened by flashes of humour as friends and family attempt to buoy Milly’s spirits.

Plotting is a tad haphazard and a protracted 250-mile trek to the Yorkshire Moors creates unnecessary conflict.

Thankfully, screenwriter Banks redeems herself with a well-judged final act that tugs our heartstrings without feeling like we’re being shamelessly manipulated into reaching for another tissue.


Robert Pattinson stars as photographer Dennis Stock in Life
Robert Pattinson stars as photographer Dennis Stock in Life

LIFE (15)
3 stars
One moment in time frozen on glossy photographic paper can capture the spirit of an era, touch hearts divided by conflict and, occasionally, shape global opinion.

Six soldiers raising the American flag on the Japanese island of Iwo Jima; a sailor planting an impromptu smacker on a nurse in New York amid celebrations to mark the end of World War II; a lone man standing in front of a Chinese military tank in Tiananmen Square; a pop band walking across Abbey Road; a drowned Syrian boy lying face down in the sand of a Turkish beach.

These iconic images linger. But more often than not, the person behind the camera, who was in the right place at the right time, goes unmentioned.

Directed by Anton Corbijn, the celebrated Dutch photographer who made a seamless transition to celluloid with the 2007 biopic Control, about Ian Curtis, of Joy Division, Life is a handsome drama about one of these unsung heroes and his close working relationship with a subject, who transfixes us 60 years after his untimely death.

In 1955 Los Angeles, photographer Dennis Stock (Robert Pattinson) – an employee of the Magnum agency overseen by John Morris (Joel Edgerton) – struggles to fulfil work commitments and his responsibilities to a young son, Rodney (Jack Fulton).

At a party thrown by Nicholas Ray (Peter Lucas), Stock encounters
an awkward 24-year-old called James Dean (Dane DeHaan) propping up the bar.

The photographer is transfixed and spots a raw talent that could turn Dean into a global star.

He proposes a photo essay in Life magazine, but the actor is reluctant to sell his soul for a few pictures.

Stock persists, capturing one of the most famous shots of the leading man: Dean hunkering down with a cigarette as he walks through a rain-sodden Times Square in New York.

The snapper joins Dean on a trip back home to Indiana for some quality time with his uncle Marcus (Ron White), aunt Ortense (Eve Crawford) and young cousin Marcus (Kasey Lea).

Meanwhile, back in Hollywood, Jack Warner (Sir Ben Kingsley) makes clear to Dean that he will need to scratch the backs of studio executives to land his dream role in Rebel Without a Cause.

“Is that even hygienic?” quips the actor, unwisely.

Life is blessed with a mesmerising performance from DeHaan as the handsome star, who died seven months after his memorable encounter with Stock.

Pattinson is understated, but there is a pleasing rapport between the two actors as their characters wrestle with the hefty price of celebrity in an era of controlling studios.

Cinematography and impeccable production design beautifully capture the fashions and fads of a smoke and booze-stained era.

Corbijn directs at a pace that some audiences might find glacial, but considerable patience reaps decent emotional rewards.