My Life Without Me

My Life Without Me has an interesting premise; its protagonist, Ann, discovers that she is dying of ovarian cancer. She decides not to tell her friends or family, and makes a list detailing all the things she wants to do before she passes on. Writer/director Isabel Coixet (Those Who Love, Things I Never Told You) based the film on the short story "Pretending the Bed is a Raft" by Nanci Kincaid. In the film, Ann (Sarah Polley, No Such Thing, The Weight of Water) refuses to die in a hospital. She wants to live life to the fullest, amongst the one she loves. She does not want people to feel sorry for her, and in a sense, wants everything to be normal. In this sense, My Life Without Me suffers a little because the emotional level is pretty constant for the entire film.

Coixet does not want the viewer to feel sorry for Ann, and refuses to turn up the water works, even as the film progresses towards the end. Yes, it is endearing what Ann is doing, but nobody feels overly sad at her imminent death, or that joyful at what she wants to do. In a way, My Life Without Me is a coming-of-age film for an adult woman who never got a chance to be a teenager. At twenty-three, she is already the mother of two young children. Her husband Don (Scott Speedman, Underworld, Dark Blue) is the first man she kissed, and the two live in a trailer with their children behind her mother's house. Don is a contractor so work is uneven, and Ann works nights cleaning a local college. She self-admittedly had to grow up overnight, and now, facing her mortality, realizes that she missed many things.

Some of the things are what most people would want. Ann records birthday greetings for her two daughters for every year until their eighteenth birthday. She thinks her neighbor (Leonor Watling, Talk to Her, Sound of the Sea) would make a great wife for Don after she passes. She wants to see her estranged father (which is pretty much a pointless exercise in the film). She wants to do something with her hair and nails, and wants to smoke and drink. Some of the other things are a little stranger, and this is where Ann's desire to "live" comes out. She wants to make love with another man, "just to see what it's like," and to have another man fall in love with her. This man comes in the form of Lee (Mark Ruffalo, View From the Top, XX/XY), himself just at the end of a relationship. They see each other clandestinely, but Ann refuses to tell Lee about her disease.

The tone of the film wavers inconsistently. A series of goofy minor characters permeate the film to give it some color, but don't have that much use. Amanda Plummer (The Million Dollar Hotel, 8 1/2 Women) is Ann's kooky coworker who obsesses about dieting and her weight. Maria de Medeiros (Single Again, The Shelter) plays The Hairdresser, who, oddly enough, is a hairdresser. Oh, and she's obsessed with Milli Vanilli. What Ann is doing is incredibly beautiful, yet incredibly selfish at the same time. Coixet can never reconcile these two feelings, although Polley's performance is heartfelt. She displays a reluctant sense of curiosity to explore the world, but her life and family keep drawing her back.

Mongoose Rates It: Okay.
1 hour, 46 minutes, Rated R for language.

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