Ogiensr , Mark Ruffalo and Sarah Polley in My Life Without Me children, not to her mother \(Deborah of things to do before she dies and sets about doing them in as energetic and unsentimental a way as one can imagine. Some of these things aren’t particularly nice and some are merely the things one can do when one no longer cares whether one looks silly. Several list items have to do with the uses and possibilities of her body, interesting choices since her flesh has betrayed her. Ann’s list contains a number of predictable items involving plain speaking and a better hairdo, but she also wants to make love to a man not her husband and to make someone fall in love with her. She sets about doing these things unapologetically and finds a likely candidate \(Mark Ruffalo, in full puppy-dog Ann does not set out to learn a great thing or to have a great enlightenment, thus sparing us the sort of beatific wisdom that young, dying movie characters often spew. At once a fairy tale and a dream, the basis of My Life Without Me is this rather selfish notionthat one would conceal the news of imminent death from one’s loved onesthat allows Ann to indulge her understandable desire to have a life of her very own to the end. Apparently a lot of viewers and reviewers have issues with this. Ann sidesteps the possibility of weeping, wailing family members who might prevent her from using her last days as she sees fit. Generous and self-sacrificing as it would be to renounce all claim to her life and comfort her loved ones by acceding to their wishes, where is it written that a dying character, especially a young person dying untimely, must go the noble route? It’s refreshing to watch a movie character who uses her last days for something other than maudlin contemplation of her metastasizing flesh. hat’s most interesting about My Life Without Me is that Ann’s life is really good and she knows it. She doesn’t embark on her must-experience list because her existence is barren or shal low. Sure, she’s got some static with her mom, her dad’s been in prison for a decade, and her husband is only inter mittently employed. But the core of her life isn’t the penny-pinching or her menial job or the tiny, cramped trailer she and her family inhabit. Ann’s real life is her role as wife and mother in a warm, incredibly loving family. That her family life is so wonderful and fulfilling allows us to see her to-do list for what it issimply a series of questions that have to be answered in rather short order. Sarah Polley is one of the finest young actresses around and she’s made some good career choices. Seeing her name in the credits is a guarantee of a certain kind of qualitythat the movie about to unspool will be, if not good, at least interesting to watch. My Life Without Me is both. Adapted from Nancy Kincaid’s story “Pretending the Bed Is a Raft,” the film almost trips over its own feet in earnest pursuit of indie street credibility. The cast includes arthouse darlings Amanda Plummer, Maria de Medeiros, Deborah Harry, and Mark Ruffalo, and the story is set in Vancouver. Despite this embarrassment of riches, writerdirector Coixet pulls off a movie that, except for the ending, keeps you guessing about what will happen next, and keeps you caring about it too. Roxanne Bogucka copy edits the Observer. 12/5/03 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 23
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