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ISSUE NO.
156 NOVEMBER 6, 2003
 
 
  theReel
  My Life Without Two Hours I Wasted
  By Jeremy Mathews
   
 
 
  Sarah Polley plays an ill-fated woman who takes the last days of her life into her own hands - and a sexy Mark Ruffalo's hands. And Blondie plays her mother! Blondie!

“My Life Without Me”
Sony Pictures Classic
Written and directed by Isabel Coixet
Produced by Esther Garcia and Gordon McLennan
Starring Sarah Polley, Scott Speedman, Deborah Harry, Mark Ruffalo, Leonor Watling, Amanda Plummer and Julian Richings
Rated R
Opening at the Broadway
(out of four)

“My Life Without Me” comes more from the fantasies of its screenwriter than any lifelike or artistic experiences. It’s about a woman named Ann (Sarah Polley) who finds out that she only has a couple of months to live and decides to spend them doing a couple of significant things and many, many silly things. This might be a reasonable story—if the film acknowledged how just how stupid the stupid things are.

Ann, 23 years old and with the unique distinction of being an Aquarius born in December, is the mother of two kids after getting pregnant at the age of 17 to her first kiss, Don (Scott Speedman). Ann, Don and their kids live a happy but low-income life in a trailer in the back of Ann’s mother’s (Deborah Harry) house.

After her doctor breaks the news, Ann decides in her diary to do the standard stuff, like making tapes for her daughters and getting a new haircut. She also makes some bizarre plans.

The film’s most annoying aspect comes from Ann’s diary entry to have sex with other men “to see what it’s like,” even though she’s in love and happily married. It’s stretching it that she would want to meet a new man in her dying days, but it’s even less convincing when she meets one man, Lee (Mark Ruffalo), falls in love and has an affair with him.

The love-affair-with-Lee thread disappears and reappears randomly, making it even less believable than it already is. It’s not only that the dying Ann wouldn’t have the energy to conduct an affair, but that there’s no real reason for her to do it. She loves her husband and presumably doesn’t fall in love with every man she meets and has sex with—especially just to see what it’s like.

If writer/director Isabel Coixet had devoted the film solely to this affair, it still wouldn’t have been convincing, but it would have at least have been thorough. Instead, there’s a barrage of issues all handled haphazardly. It’s true that a young woman facing death would have the same problems, but she wouldn’t magically fix all the problems before her demise.

A selfless woman might, as Ann does, search for a replacement wife for her husband and children. But that doesn’t mean the husband and the first woman she finds would automatically be keen on each other.

Coixet might have been trying not to bring more drama than necessary, but at some point it seems as if Ann would make a mistake. You don’t get to rehearse for dying. Moments such as rude comments to a hairdresser or a snap at a co-worker are refreshing, but would serve better as details in a more honest film—here they’re the only honest moments in a hollow film.

If the stupid actions weren’t enough to sink the film, there are also several over-the-top, second-person voice-over monologues to tell you what goes through your head when you’re going to die. This is more an attempt to look artsy than to examine the character.

Coixet’s knack for details could come in handy in later endeavors, however. It’s clear that she was at least thinking about things in the writing process, and while some of them fail completely (like a reference to “that guy who was president” not inhaling when Ann laments not doing enough drugs in high school), she could pull it off next time. The scene in which the doctor informs her of the tumor, for example, has a nice detail in the doctor’s reluctance to look Ann in the eyes.

It’s clear that Coixet could have a strong film in her. She just needs to let go of her fantasies and consider the human experience.
jeremy@red-mag.com

 
     
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