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My Life Without Me

Director: Isabel Coixet

Canada-Spain| 2003. Colour. Dolby digital stereo. 102 mins.


Isabel Coixet’s low-key feature-the first English-language project from Pedro Almodovar’s El Deseo company-feels like a North American Indie movie with some Iberian inflections. Sarah Polley is luminous yet authentic as Ann, a 24-year-old working class mother who shares a cramped trailer home with her husband Don (Scott Speedman) and two young daughters. Pregnant at 17, married to her high school sweetheart, and stuck in a dead-end job as a night cleaner, Ann’s humdrum life is thrown into sharp perspective by the news that she has ovarian cancer and only two or three months to live.
Opting out of debilitating treatment, Ann also decides not to tell her family and friends the true reason for her increasing lethargy. Instead, she resolves to put her life in order, and to experience some of the things she’s missed out on. So she visits her estranged father (Alfred Molina) in prison, tries to make peace with her embittered mother (Deborah Harry), and sets up her husband and children with a potential surrogate, their beautiful neighbour, also called Ann (Leonor Watling). Never having made love to anyone but her husband, Ann also starts an affair with Lee (Mark Ruffalo), an enigmatic loner she meets in the laundrette. Inspired by Nanci Kincaid’s short story, ‘Pretending the Bed Is a Raft’, My Life Without Me asks us to identify with a heroine who deliberately excludes her loved ones from the last precious weeks of her life. For some this may feel selfless, for others it might seem selfish. Depending upon your point of view, you may react differently to the film’s quirky, precious or moving moments.

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