Tuesday, March 4, 2008


Sarah Polley, Mark Ruffalo, Scott Speedman, Amanda Plummer, Deborah Harry

The first time I came across the names Isabel Coixet and Sarah Polley was last year at the Spanish film festival. Their collaboration was for a film called "The Secret Life of Words". It was a deeply moving story presented in such a simple way. But the film still registers strong emotions within me several months after I saw it.

"My Life without Me" is an earlier film from the Spanish director and the Canadian actress which was released in 2003. It has the same simplistic approach in film technique with minimal sounds yet once again focuses on a heavy theme.

This time it deals with death. Ann (Sarah Polley) is a young mother of 2 daughters who lives in a trailer with her mostly unemployed husband. She works the night shift as a cleaning lady at one of the local universities. She is diagnosed with cancer yet hides her illness from her family. The story traces the measures she takes to live her life to the fullest while preparing for her impending death. Somehow despite such a gloomy subject matter, the film doesn't have a depressing tone. Instead it showcases Ann's efforts to put her life in order guided by a list of things she wants to do before she dies. Not worldly stuff like go traveling around the world, shopping sprees or feasting on gastronomic delights. Nope. Her list consists of trivial things like a new hair style, getting false nails, saying what you really want to say without worrying about hurting people's feelings among others. Naturally certain essentials like making voice tapes for her 2 daughters until their 18th birthdays and also finding a suitable partner for her husband. It is best you watch the film to see if she gets to do all the items on her bucket list.

The film is quite amateurish in some aspects. Certain shots are not properly framed. Sometimes I get the impression they used only one camera through out the entire film. But it doesn't diminish the fact that the story line is solid and concise. The plot never loses its focus.
There are steady acting performances from the cast. Notably Sarah Polley whose sad plain face can be quite expressive. You also have Mark Ruffalo, Debbie Harry (Ms Blondie herself) and Scott Speedman (from the TV show "Felicity") providing good supporting roles.

I figure sometimes it doesn't really take much technical or visual effects to have a moving, emotional (film) experience. Sometimes we rely on the jarring soundtrack or the fast paced action scenes to amuse our short attention span when it only takes a simple solid storyline to convey a message. In our own simple way we can live our life to the fullest without expecting too much or aiming too high for it.

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