Review by: Jack Foley | Rating:
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Behind the scenes footage; Cast
and crew biographies; Q & A with director Isabel Coixet; Trailers;
PREVIEW critics were handed a packet of hankies before entering
the screening for this film, so you can imagine that My Life Without
Me is the type of weepie that is really serious about attacking
those tear ducts.
Whether it succeeds in making you cry, however, depends, largely,
on how hard a heart you possess, for there is no denying the affecting
power of Isabel Coixets film, or its ability to make you
think for some time afterwards.
Sarah Polley stars as night-time cleaner, Ann, who, at 23, has
two young daughters, a husband who spends more time unemployed
than working, a mother who hates the world, and a father who has
spent the past ten years in prison.
Her routine existence is rocked, however, by the discovery that
she has only months to live, a revelation she resolves to keep
to herself, but which prompts her to draw up a list of things
to do before she dies, mindful of the fact that her daughters
will have to grow up without her.
The ensuing film, while certainly heart-rending, cleverly avoids
the temptation of becoming too depressing or heavy-handed, opting
instead to spend time with Ann in a life-affirming way, as she
sets about providing for her loved ones after she
has gone, while satisfying her own desires by allowing a complete
stranger (Mark Ruffalo) to fall in love with her.
By doing so, it packs a far heavier emotional punch, culminating
in a genuinely poignant finale that really does tug at the heart-strings,
without really feeling as though it is manipulating them.
And while a grim sense of inevitability hangs over many of the
proceedings, particularly during moments when Ann is seen recording
birthday messages to each of her daughters, the film also strikes
a nice balance between the obvious tragedy of the situation, and
a humour which never feels misplaced.
Hence, characters such as Amanda Plummers weight-fixated
co-worker, Deborah Harrys chronically whinging mother, and
Maria de Medeiros quirky hairdresser provide some welcome
relief from the serious business which could have dominated.
The film also stands or falls on how sympathetic you find its
central character, and in Polley, it has a mesmerising performer.
The talented young actress is devastatingly understated as Ann,
who refuses to give up and feel sorry for herself, even as her
health begins to deteriorate.
Hence, what could have become another showy at deaths
door performance, designed to showcase an actress
ability, turns into a tremendously affecting one, which is grounded
in a reality not usually reserved for this type of fare.
Her down to earth character is always convincing and totally
sympathetic, even though some may feel her decision to keep her
predicament to herself is bordering on the selfish.
Ruffalo, too, is on terrific form as the enigmatic stranger,
possessing real presence, and an almost haunting stare, as he
bids to understand and trust his newfound relationship.
Coixets film has been backed by Spains premier film-maker,
Pedro Almodovar, and frequently reaches the emotional intensity
of much of his previous work (especially Talk
To Her), making it the type of movie which, while certainly
an acquired taste, cant fail to touch those who see it.