Ann, 23 years old, lives a modest life with her two kids and her husband in a trailer in her mother's garden. Her life takes a dramatic turn, when her doctor tells her that she has uterine cancer and only two months to live. She compiles a list of things to do before she dies. Written by
Moritz Muehlenhoff <firstname.lastname@example.org>
"My Life Without Me" shows off Sarah Polley's beauty and acting that has been clear to her fans since her "Avonlea" days.
In writer/director Isabel Coixet's first English language feature, Polley takes what could have been a drippy, maudlin story of a dying young mother and turns it into a clear-eyed path to accepting early death and taking charge of the hand that's dealt you. This delicate view is in sharp contrast to Hollywood tripe like "Sweet November" where beautiful healthy women in denial die of Movie Star Disease.
When Polley's "Ann" gets her death sentence from a doctor who can't even look her in the eyes, she resolves, among other items on her "To Do Before I Die" list, to tell it like it is -- but finds that instead everyone around her spills out their inner-most problems and she doesn't get to, including an amusing effort to get a Milli Vanilli-loving hairdresser to cut her hair like she wants it. Perhaps it's because she chooses to lie to them about her imminent demise. Not only does Polley get to use her full-fledged Canadian accent complete with "Eh"s, but until I read it on her imdb bio I didn't know that when she was 11 Polley lost her mother to cancer, so she must have had personal experience to draw on.
The imdb credits do not include that the script is based on a short story by Nanci Kincaid, "Pretending the Bed is a Raft," with additional inspiration from a poem about a young women's death by John Berger, who is thanked prominently in the credits. The symbolism of Ann having met her husband at the last Nirvana concert is also played upon several times.
The music selections are lovely, both the romantic-sounding European ballads from one character's sister's DJ mix tape and the original music by Alfonso Vilallonga, that are poignant and keep out the schmaltz.
Polley's supporting actors are wonderful, from the lively children to Amanda Plummer, who has been MIA from films for a while, and Debbie Harry as the depressed mother.
There's a couple of resonances of the TV show "Felicity" as not only does "Ann" leave voiced-over audio tapes to her loved ones, but, yikes, even dying, "Ann" gets both gorgeous sensitive hunks Scott Speadmen and Mark Ruffalo to love her. It's effectively shown, though, that one was the love of an adolescence that ended too soon with parental responsibilities and the other of her too-short adulthood.
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