Cancer drama that sees best friends Jess (Drew Barrymore) and Milly (Toni Collette) go through the lengthy horror of Milly being diagnosed with breast cancer and undergoing chemo. We see their individual family lives – Milly with husband Kit (Dominic Cooper) and their two children, Jess with lover Jago (Paddy Considine) who begin to consider having a child of their own, but Jess’s devotion to the more narcissistic Milly in her time of need begins to interfere with their private life as well. The two leads are fantastic (and as they remark in the film, Collette actually really suits being bald) which is why the films works as well as it does in its guise of dramatic, and perhaps cathartic, tearjerker.
At one point Milly desperately considers doing something rash, partially out of despair and misery but also partly to hurt her rather insensitive husband (whose behaviour is never properly explained), by travelling to Yorkshire from the film’s setting of London – the fact that she goes through with it is one thing, the fact that she gets there by taxi on their credit card is quite another and surely grounds for divorce alone never mind what she is contemplating doing once there. There is a link made with ‘Wuthering Heights’ which the pair of them love (it’s set on the Yorkshire moors) and indeed Kate Bush’s memorable 1978 song based on the novel (see below) – all I can say is beware following classic romantic literature too closely, it doesn’t exactly set many good examples – the Red Dragon still remembers the slew of youngsters shedding themselves of their mortality after publication of Goethe’s 1774 ‘The Sorrows of Young Werther’, wherein the protagonist kills himself over unrequited love, although ironically Goethe wrote it to successfully purge his own dangerously morbid obsession with a young woman.
Penned by actress and writer Morwenna Banks and directed by Catherine Hardwicke (‘Twilight’ 08, ‘Red Riding Hood’ 11) it comes as no surprise that the material, whilst fictional, is based on Banks’s memories of her friends going through similar events, and the film very much has that appeal of detailing something most people can relate to on some level, but it remains Barrymore and Collette’s performances that really anchor and sell the whole thing.