Me Without You

Me Without You


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Families? Who needs them, when you have friends?

Well, friends aren't so wonderful, especially the old ones. When you've known each other for as long as you can remember, it's like sharing a toothbrush, only funnier. Holly is the shy one and Marina the naughty one. They are the bestest, closer than blood.

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Then they grow up. Holly (Michelle Williams) has always fancied Nat (Oliver Milburn), Marina's brother, but he's one of those sensitive, poetic types who are so passive they allow women to invade them. Marina (Anna Friel) is different. A tomboy, who can play femme fatale, she has to be centre of attention.

In their teens, it's Marina who dresses as a Goth and takes drugs and has sex with skinny layabouts and thinks squats are cool. Holly reads books, fantasises about romance, is pleasant with her parents and thinks she's unattractive. Later, at university, she goes to bed with her English tutor (Kyle Maclachlan), only to discover that Marina's shagging him as well.

This is a film about hormones, betrayal, emotional blackmail and how useless men are unless they do what you want when you want it, which is like waiting for Joy Division to bring you joy. It's good on how love is always stronger with the ones you can't have and the difficulty of understanding why sex changes everything and how hard it is pretending to know what's going on when all it comes down to is struggling with a bra strap at five in the morning on a carpet that stinks of decaying cabbage.

It feels autobiographical. There are no running gags and the construction appears organic, rather than planned. Marina is a monster, selfish and manipulative and sulky, but Friel is so good, she becomes addictive. Normally, you would notice the danger signs - the need for control, the short attention span, the tarty clothes, the insatiable insecurity, the hunger for excitement - and take appropriate action. But she demands your attention and you can't walk away.

Marina comes from a dysfunctional home. She's broken, like a promise, but thinks she can fake it. Holly has a strength she doesn't recognise, dazzled for too long by Marina's daring. Growing up is the journey from innocence through pain to a kind of acceptance. The lives that writer/director Sandra Goldbacher touches have the whiff of truth about them, which can be hurtful and ugly. Marina's energy is self-defeating, her vulnerability almost tragic. If this was Hollywood, she would be played by Kate Hudson and Holly by Drew Barrymore and the feelbad factor would be replaced by feelgood and you would come out smiling, which doesn't happen here, because reality bites.

Reviewed on: 22 Nov 2001
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Rites-of-passage for Anna Friel and Michelle Williams from high school to motherhood.
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Director: Sandra Goldbacher

Writer: Sandra Goldbacher, Laurence Coriat

Starring: Anna Friel, Michelle Williams, Oliver Milburn, Trudie Styler, Kyle MacLachlan, Ella Jones, Anna Popplewell, Cameron Powrie, Allan Corduner, Deborah Findlay, Nicky Henson, Hannah Bourne

Year: 2001

Runtime: 107 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: Ireland, UK


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