My Life Without Me (2003)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Melodrama  |   Release Date - Sep 26, 2003 (USA - Limited)  |   Run Time - 116 min.  |   Countries - Canada, Spain  |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Michael Hastings

Rarely has a movie about dying been as unsentimental as Isabel Coixet's acerbic, heartbreaking melodrama: From the doctor's office to the deathbed, My Life Without Me is about as far removed from a "disease of the week" TV movie as filmmaking gets. It helps that the writer-director cast the incomparable Sarah Polley, an actress utterly in tune with Coixet's sensibilities. A fiercely independent performer who -- not unlike Jennifer Jason Leigh before her -- has used her drowsy gaze and humanist sensibilities to both good and bad effect, Polley at last finds a leading role that's strong, complex, and utterly sympathetic. As the terminal janitor Ann, Polley's able to play a working-class woman whose innate warmth and grace is enough to help her rise above her predicament as well as her occasional loss for words. The character's pledge never to reveal her illness to her loved ones internalizes most of the drama, which costs the film some momentum in its latter half. But Coixet never once resorts to spell-it-out narration or "seize the day" histrionics. Her heroine ends the film as she began it: reserved, modest, and with no desire for martyrdom. After playing both the Toronto and Telluride festivals in the fall of 2002, My Life Without Me secured a brief theatrical run in the U.S.