My Life Without Me is an interesting film to review – there is a constant tension between hating and loving the lead character that makes watching it a real struggle.
So, what would you do if you found out you only have three months to live? Mourn your time lost? Wonder “Why me”? Not for our hero Ann, who calmly sets about doing the things she’s never done – limited as she has been by having her first child by 17, her second by 19, and living in a caravan. Some of the tasks are simple – like “speak my mind”, or “get fake nails and a new haircut” – others are a lot more complex. In setting out to achieve these things, with scant respect for the feelings of those who love her, Ann is starting a narcissistic spiral. The trick that Isabel Coixet pulls, is to make us care for her nonetheless.
And really, can you blame her? Ann has faced an awful lot of growing up, and missed out on a lot of experiences we take for granted, and she only wants to try some of them before she dies. Is that really so bad? I guess if she were a 40-ish woman, it would seem worse, but the attempt to live the youth she missed out on before dying, coming from a 23 year old who seems to do such a good job of meeting her responsibilities, seems more valid. Even if she hurts those she loves and cares for so much, we can almost forgive her, as she really does seem to try to look after her young family to the best of her ability.
The fatal decision – to keep her sentence to herself, thus taking away the chance for her loved ones to say their goodbyes – is quite selfish, and the film is a little dishonest in not showing us the fallout of her death. How did her husband, or worse her children, react on finding her dead in the bed? Had they known it was coming, maybe they would take it better? By skipping to happy scenes of future fun and play, Coixet fails to acknowledge that Ann’s choice has some pretty awful ramifications.END SPOILERS
Sarah Polley is amazing, again, as Ann, the young woman at the centre of My Life Without Me. I can’t remember seeing her put in a bad performance in anything she’s been in, and she stays true to form here. Had Scarlett Johansson not recently gone ballistic, I’d suggest Sarah Polley was the next big thing.
Mark Ruffalo is wonderful as Ann’s love interest, revealing a wounded soul waiting to be healed. He gives Lee a depth and kindliness, the perfect foil for the self-focused acts of Ann. Speedman shows he can actually act a little – my experience of him had been pretty much limited to Underworld – playing Ann’s faithful husband almost perfectly.
Were the acts of this person not so abhorrent, you could really love her for her quiet strength and dignity. Unfortunately, her decisions, whilst perhaps understandable and forgivable, are not ones I feel comfortable with.Rating: