MY LIFE WITHOUT ME
Ann (Sarah Polley) is a young Vancouver mum of two girls, married to her first boyfriend (Scott Speedman), and living in a caravan in her mum's (Deborah Harry) backyard. When she believes she is pregnant but is told instead that she has tumours and just two months to live, she decides not to tell any of her loved ones, to spare them, and herself, the anguish of expectations of death. She makes a list of things to do, leaves a life-plan for her children, with recorded messages for each of their birthdays until they're 18. Finally, she visits her dad (Alfred Molina) in jail and has an affair with a man she meets in a cafe (Mark Ruffalo).
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Close up: She stands in the rain. In a low voice magnified by intimate sound design, she narrates over the image, words along the lines: 'The feel of the rain soaking through your clothes to your skin and the sense of the ground getting soft under your feet and the sound of the rain hitting the leaves.... All the things they talk about in books that you haven't read...' This sets off my pretension detector. A few minutes later, though, she is telling her mum (Deborah Harry), "There's no such thing as normal people." Now I can connect.
Gyrating between manipulative and real, My Life Without Me covers the familiar territory of a character who's dying from a terminal illness ... in this case at 23 ... but in this case doesn't want anyone around her to know, including her equally young and layabout husband of five years (the only man she's ever kissed ... so far) and her two little daughters.
The film's dynamic comes from this tension: she knows, we know, but nobody she loves knows. She makes a list of things big and small to do before she dies, and we see these things written on the screen under weepy accordion music. The list includes No. 7 'make love to other men to see what it's like' and No. 8, 'Make someone fall in love with me' just as we see Mark Ruffalo come into shot across the café. It's lost me again. We don't understand her choices.
The film's failures are not of content but of delivery: the novel's voice is used in narration form to try and anchor us to her inner feelings, yet it comes out feeble and false. The awkwardly inserted magic realism of a snatched supermarket song and dance number signals the desperation that haunts the film's creative ambitions. Talented Mark Ruffalo is wasted....
It's how this potentially excellent story is told that reduces its value by its cheap-shot sentimentality and clumsy adaptation. It's a mystery to me how it got into Berlin, London and Toronto - and why Pedro Almodovar took on the task of executive producer.
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MY LIFE WITHOUT ME (M)
CAST: Sarah Polley, Scott Speedman, Deborah Harry, Mark Ruffalo, Leonor Watling, Amanda Plummer, Julian Richings
PRODUCER: Esther Garcia, Gord McLennan
DIRECTOR: Isabel Coixet
SCRIPT: Isabel Coixet
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Jean-Claude Larrieu
EDITOR: Lisa Robison
MUSIC: Gino Paoli, Alfonso Vilallonga
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Carol Lavallee
RUNNING TIME: 106 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Palace
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: July 15, 2004