My Life Without Me


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

There's nothing like finding life when you're losing it.

Those who are slaves to their secretary's nail varnish, or the steady drum roll of must-do chores, such as attending a board meeting and French polishing the executive sports hall, have no idea how the paraphernalia of existence clutters perception. Death concentrates the mind. So does passion.

Ann (Sarah Polley) is a 23-year-old office cleaner, who lives in a trailer home in her mom's backyard on the outskirts of Vancouver, with daughters and husband Don (Scott Speedman) who has been unemployed for some time, although, only today, picked up a job with a company that constructs swimming pools.

She and her mom (Deborah Harry) don't get along. Her dad's in prison, but no-one talks about that, nor goes to visit. Her life is good, relatively speaking, when she's not blitzed with exhaustion.

She makes an appointment to see the doctor, thinking she's pregnant again, and he asks her to sit down and as she does so, she notices that his voice has slipped out of gear. The scan has shown inoperable tumours, spreading throughout her body.

"How long?" "Two months."

Her brain freezes. Tears glisten on her cheek. Time slows. Part of her consciousness steps away, observing the diagnosis, as if from outer space.

Who hasn't asked, "What would you do if The Bomb dropped?", leaving you contaminated, doomed and still alive? Have earth-moving sex with Michelle Pfeiffer? Take heroin? Drive a racing car round Silverstone at 200mph?

Ann makes a list, 10 Things To Do Before I Die, including "Sleep with other men to see what it's like" and "Make someone fall in love with me." The film observes her accomplish these tasks, as well as hide the truth of her illness from friends and family.

Writer/director Isabel Coixet takes a simple story that appears pristine in its single-minded dedication to upholding the dignity of the human spirit. She softens the gut-crushing reality that "your whole life has been a dream and only now you're waking up" and what the doctor says about "dying not being as easy as it looks".

The performances break your heart, not because the subject matter has a built in Love Story factor, but because they are so good. Polley seems incapable of a false note and Speedman manages to give the supporting role a genuine warmth. For once, you believe in this marriage. It has an energy of its own.

Mark Ruffalo, who is fast becoming everyone's favourite bit of rough, does his brooding method act, as Lee, the socially inadequate loner, who lives in an undecorated apartment with books. Ann picks him to find out what it's like not to be with Don and when he falls in love with her, droplets of sentimentality splash over the bare floor.

Reviewed on: 06 Nov 2003
Share this with others on...
My Life Without Me packshot
Young mother dying of cancer plans for life after her death.
Amazon link

Director: Isabel Coixet

Writer: Isabel Coixet

Starring: Sarah Polley, Mark Ruffalo, Amanda Plummer, Scott Speedman, Leonor Watling, Deborah Harry, Maria De Medeiros

Year: 2003

Runtime: 106 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: Canada/Spain


Search database: