If you had a few months to live, what would you do? This is a dilemma that’s been faced by many in our community and it’s at the core of My Life Without Me, a new film starring Sarah Polley.
My Life Without Me is a Spanish-Canadian production and the first film in English for El Deseo, the production house of Pedro and Agust?Almod?. It stars Canadian Sarah Polley, who first gained international recognition as an 18-year-old for her award-winning role in Atom Egoyan’s The Sweet Hereafter (1997). She has also appeared in the outstanding Canadian gay film The Hanging Garden (1997), as well as Go (1999) and Michael Winterbottom’s The Claim (2000).
Sarah Polley plays a 23-year-old mother of two living in a trailer in her mother’s backyard with her unemployed husband. She dreams of a different life for herself, studying Chinese as she works the graveyard shift as a cleaner in a college. Suddenly she is unwell and her dreams are reduced to what she can fit into two months. Polley is outstanding and saves this film from what could have been a maudlin, melodramatic mess. Fifty-nine-year-old Deborah Harry, lead singer of Blondie and a veteran of more than 30 films, including gay film The Fluffer, is excellent as the mother who is also living in a field of broken dreams. Scott Speedman (Underworld) is the sweetly hopeless husband. The cast is rounded out with Mark Ruffalo (Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind), Amanda Plummer (Agnes Of God), Almod? favourite Leonor Watling (Talk to Her) and cameos from Carmen Martinez (The L Word), Maria de Madeiros (Pulp Fiction) and Alfred Molina (Spider-Man 2).
The film is directed by 44-year-old Catalonian writer/director Isabel Coixet and is based on a short story, Pretending The Bed Is A Raft, by American Nanci Kincaid. Coixet is better known for running Miss Wasabi, a company which produces video clips and documentaries, and, as has happened many times before, found this story by chance whilst travelling. The story was originally set in summer in steamy Louisiana but is relocated to the colder and no doubt cheaper climes of downtown Vancouver.
My Life Without Me has won many awards around the world, and was nominated for a Golden Bear at Berlin. It is a small, indie unsentimental look at what a young working-class woman would do when faced with death. In some ways it is a little too down pat for my taste and I would have liked to see more dimensionality to the characters. But there are also some surreal Almod? touches and funny moments such as the Milli Vanilli sequence which keep you pondering the fragility of life and the choices we might make if faced with death.