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!
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
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
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
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.