Growing up in the 1970s on the Isle of Wight, Holly and Marina make a childhood pact to be friends forever. For the troubled, unpredictable Marina, with her seemingly glamorous father and her Valium-addicted mother, Holly stays the only constant in a life of divorcing parents, experimental drugs and fashionable self-destruction. Meanwhile, Holly buries herself in books out of feelings of frustration with her over-protective mother and a nagging insecurity around her beautiful and possessive best friend. She holds just one secret from Marina, her increasing passion for Marina's brother Nat. As the years roll by, the girls experience everything life has to offer, sex, love, loss and rock 'n roll. But eventually for Holly, a friendship which has never been equal gradually begins to feel like a trap. Written by
Sujit R. Varma
A messy, busy, charming little English film about girls muddling through.
Summary: A messy, busy, charming little English film about girls muddling through `Me Without You' is a nice little movie (or should I say film?) that's a lot of fun if you'll let it be. Its depiction of a dependent relationship between two young Englishwomen from the Seventies till now is messy and busy. That's fine. If life wasn't messy and busy in the Seventies and Eighties I don't know what it was. Clothes and décor and music are thrown at us to evoke the successive periods in a way that ranges from charming to grating. The focus isn't on that; it's just a way of showing the passage of time, the saga of lives moving on. The early sequences jump a little too fast. When you go from the little girls to the young women you may think they're wholly different people. You may think the metamorphoses of the young women are too rapid. But quite early you start to care about both women, and about Marina's sweet and good looking but tragically unavailable brother Nat. This is a women's picture in the good sense that it knows what makes men attractive to women and why that both matters very much and isn't quite enough. It seems to take Nat and Holly about twenty-five years to get together for keeps. The relationship between Marina (Anna Friel) and Holly (Michelle Williams) makes disfunctionality and exploitation between people seem okay, and that's fine too. Mostly we don't question our intimate relationships. The assumption is that the relationship is symbiotic. Pretty early on it becomes clear that the insecure but fast Marina exploits and abuses Holly, while the slightly mousy but smart Holly sticks around because she's too nice and too needy not to. It takes a few decades for this to end, for Holly to realize that Marina needs her more than she needs Marina.
I think what makes this a good film (I will say film) is that it's informed by the English spirit of muddling through, of not expecting too much, but there's an underlying moral sense. There's some of the same kind of wry honesty that comes at the end of Schlesinger's `Sunday Bloody Sunday.' `Me Without You' doesn't try to save the world or make Teaching Points about people. It takes them as they are. You can see this in the womanizing American prof character played excellently by Kyle McLaughlan. He's a rotter, but bloody hell! He can't help it. He's sleazier than the amiable scoundrel played by Hugh Grant in `About a Boy,' but he has some of that appeal. Marina isn't a bitch. If a person as nice and as smart as Holly loves her, how can we hate her? No one is a caricature. No one is whiney or shrill. Muddling through, or making do: I thought also of the mood of the once-Number One video in England, `Withnail and I': it's always rainy and things are always running out.
There are a lot of scenes and little reversals of fortune and through them all Friel and Williams remain excellent, Friel as Marina changing costumes like some mod master of disguise, while the soft, slightly plain, but actually quite lovely Williams as Holly carries the film. Finally it's all about Holly. It's Holly who has the endurance and who gets the man of her dreams at the end, rewarded for her intelligence and moral superiority like a Jane Austen heroine. Williams does her English accent to perfection and quietly underplays her role. The highly saturated color of the film makes her skin look ravishing: she becomes not just an English girl but an understated English beauty who doesn't need Marina's trendy, tarted up costumes and face to be splendid looking.
What makes the film worthwhile and interesting is how well the two characters are written. A long time after seeing it I was still thinking about the relationship.
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