My Life Without Me
4 out of 5 stars
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
my life without me Spanish writer-director Coixet (Things I Never Told You) crosses the Atlantic for her first English-language film, bringing the Almodovar brothers along as producers, and the result is a strikingly uplifting film about facing death! Yes, really. Ann (Polley) is a 23-year-old mother of two (Amlee and Kennedy) with a loving but struggling husband (Speedman); the family lives in a trailer in her mom's (Harry) backyard, but things could be worse. The story begins as Ann finds out that she has terminal cancer, and without telling anyone she sets about preparing for life to go on after her death. Along the way she has a checklist of things she wants to accomplish, including a wish to see what it's like to be with another man (Ruffalo).

While the subject matter sounds morbid and depressing, the film is anything but! It vibrates with real life rhythms of speech and relationships, especially where family members connect with each other on complicated levels. This is brought to life by delightfully natural performances all around. Polley is stunningly authentic, capturing little details in each scene that draw us into Ann's mind. And nothing we've ever seen before can prepare us for Harry's sensitive, earthy turn as Ann's bitter burnout of a mother who still has a soft spot for Joan Crawford films. Each character has detail that makes him or her wonderfully three-dimensional, and while this makes them spring to life it also shows what a carefully plotted film this actually is. Everyone here has a journey to take, whether they know it or not, and it's all perhaps a bit too tidy and even handed. But Coixet's sensitive and truthful examination of mortality turns the film into a celebration of life that still has the ability to catch us off guard and challenge us to look at the world around us in a new way.

cert 15 themes, language 1.Sep.03

dir-scr Isabel Coixet
with Sarah Polley, Scott Speedman, Deborah Harry, Mark Ruffalo, Amanda Plummer, Leonor Watling, Julian Richings, Maria de Medeiros, Jessica Amlee, Kenya Jo Kennedy, Sonja Bennett, Alfred Molina
release US 26.Sep.03; UK 7.Nov.03
03/Canada 1h43

Days and nights: Speedman and Polley go to sleep above; Ruffalo watches Polley sleep below.

polley speedman ruffalo
R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... my life without me Carole, Seattle: "A terrific film! I saw it at the Berlin Film Festival and it is still very much with me. Although I usually dislike voice-overs, this one is appropriate and quite wonderful. The dialogue is apt, charming, very believable. I was totally caught up in this film every moment (rare for me, because I am a writer and quite critical). It may be a woman's film. It's not Hollywood trash, but a sensitive, independent-type movie." (29.Sep.03)
2003 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall