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My Life Without Me
cast: Sarah Polley, Amanda Plummer, Scott Speedman, Leonor Watling and Deborah Harry

writer and director: Isabel Coixet

101 minutes (15) 2002
widescreen ratio 1.85:1
Metrodome DVD Region 2 retail
[released 19 July]

RATING: 6/10
reviewed by Gary Couzens
Ann (Sarah Polley) is 23 years old. She married Don (Scott Speedman), the first man she ever kissed, and now lives with him and their two young daughters in a trailer at the bottom of her mother's (Deborah Harry) garden. Then she discovers she has inoperable ovarian cancer. Ann decides not to tell anyone that she has two to three months to live and instead lists ten things she wants to do in the time left to her. They include making taped messages for her daughters for every birthday until their 18th, finding Don a new wife, and making love to another man.
   My Life Without Me is filmed with rather more restraint than other examples of the terminal-illness genre (Stepmom particularly comes to mind), which disguises the fact that it's just as sentimental as they are. One giveaway is that Ann never seems to get sicker: just a little more pallor which she passes off as anaemia... and this is someone who has refused any treatment! Considering that many women in films written and directed by men are little more than male fantasies, it may be unfair to criticise this film (written and directed by a woman) for producing a pair of female fantasy figures in the two major male characters. Don is a picture-perfect husband, who never seems to disagree, despite living in a small trailer within yards of his mother-in-law's house. And Lee (Mark Ruffalo) is an idealised sensitive lover. He's in a tradition that goes back at least as far as Alan Bates in An Unmarried Woman and no doubt further: in the female-empowerment genre, of which this film is also an example, he provides the heroine with a 'therapeutic fuck'. Also, the fact that Ann's new neighbour (Leonor Watling) is also called Ann is far too neat a scriptwriter's contrivance.
   There are things to enjoy in this film. There are the performances from a strong cast, with Alfred Molina in one scene, uncredited, as Ann's jailbird father. Coixet's command of tone is quite well achieved. On the other hand, her use of handheld cameras (operated by herself) sometimes gives an appropriate dislocated floating-in-space feel but at other times becomes irritating. My Life Without Me - a Spanish film, made for Pedro Almodovar's production company, shot in English in Canada - is certainly watchable, but it's not as sensitive and insightful as it thinks it is.
   Metrodome's DVD has a very good anamorphic transfer with Dolby digital 5.1 and 2.0 soundtracks. Extras: a making-of featurette, interviews with the director and all the principal cast except Deborah Harry, biographies, a Q&A with the director after a London Film Festival screening, English and Spanish trailers, a music video, and trailers for other Metrodome releases.
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