My Life Without Me

My Life Without Me "Mi Vida Sin Mi"My Life Without Me is first and foremost an intimate and contrived examination of mortality and the choices we make when faced with the abrupt and permanent altering of our lives by accident, illness, or for no reason we can think of. Contrived means deliberately created rather than arising naturally or spontaneously.  When was the last time you watched a movie that was not intentionally, purposefully orchestrated for effect even when said result was escapism or pure entertainment?  Where this film departs from those parameters is in the telling of a universal story that has affected, or will affect us all.  A young woman (Sarah Polley) a wife and mother, learns she is dying and in reaction to the time she has left decides to make a list of what she wants to experience before she dies.  When was the last time you considered all the things we as a society think about doing but rarely do in our own lives even without such motivation?

My Life Without Me is a heavy, emotionally taxing film but there is no way of missing that going in.  We are immediately made aware of the timeliness of the story and the everyday nuances of people bumping into one another through the course of unremarkable lives. This is where Coixet carefully constructs the starting place for a more profound and meaningful comment on the nature of living and dying.  Of course no film can properly or appropriately summarize such expansive contemplation in an hour and a half but like the films 21 Grams and Love Liza, the journey is the movie and what happens along the way, rather than an oversimplified snapshot with a Hollywood happy ending.

Though Spanish filmmaker Isabel Coixet has slipped from the American feature-film radar recently, her talent for capturing the subtle exchange of emotions between conflicted characters in quiet, often weighty stories remains a memorable hallmark of her cinematic style.  My Life Without Me (2003) or Mi Vida Sin Mi is Coixet’s fourth film and stars Sarah PolleyMark RuffaloMaria de Medeirosand Amanda Plummer.  The story moves quickly through the ordinary world of Polley’s life, her nowhere job and modest life with husband and two young girls in a trailer next door to her mother’s house – performed by an austere Deborah Harry (Blondie).  Things unravel soon after Ann (Polley) learns she has stomach cancer and has only a modicum of time left to live.  This realization sets her off to compile a list of all the things she wants to do before she dies, including make love with another man. Where the story bogs down in some degree is the very reason the film succeeds, weaving a tapestry of dreamy imagery and contemplative impressions of a young woman struck down in her prime and all the ways in which she is exactly like us and more brave than we have ever been.

Reviews of the film are mixed.  Some believe the story over sentimental and dreary, tangled by moments of disingenuous emotional tooling than believable and therefore acceptable spontaneous reactions.  Mark Ruffalo as the introverted other man is painfully soothing, emoting a multi-layered reserve that might as easily be a mirror for our own damaged lives.  Missing these ever-so careful touches are perhaps explanation enough of how audiences and critics were uncertain about the film.  Where these elements are enough for the character centric movie enthusiast, it is obvious they are less so for others.

My Life Without Me reminds us about love and loss, the seemingly banal drudgery of day-to-day life that can easily be detoured if not derailed by things completely out of our control.  It is not difficult to connect to a film about dying if the undercurrent of themes about opportunity and happiness are crafted as well as Coixet achieves here.  You might be skeptical about a movie where the protagonist faces imminent loss, her upturned world left jagged, but rest assured this film resonates with honesty and integrity.  In the end, faced with our own mortality, My Life Without Me reminds that things will surely go on without us and the most important life lesson of all is making the most of the time we have and those we choose to invite to the celebration.


About rorydean

Rory Dean is a multi-medium artist, writer and new media strategist with a background as a creative consultant and technology liaison in the San Francisco Bay Area. His broad experiences and specialties include print-to-web publicity, promotions and design marketing using traditional and social media networks. As a motion pictures and television professional, his short films, productions and commercials have screened to domestic and international audiences. His connections to a diverse client base include artists, entertainers, corporations, non-profits and everyday people.. Dean is co-owner and founder of Dissave Pictures, a boutique production company focusing on audio, video, photography and multi-media designs. Dean's personal and professional background includes dreaming and avid notebook journaling, creative and copy writing, promotions and marketing, audio/video production, photography, videography, editing, web design and new media. He’s also a fan of collaboration and knows when to turn the reigns over, offer feedback, lead the team and step aside. His portfolio includes print, online, film, video, photography, graphic design and promotions. He’ll show you. He has a book and everything. "When not juggling various online worlds, I do a pretty good mime – but that’s another story."
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2 Responses to My Life Without Me

  1. Rodney says:

    Great article, Rory. I’ll admit I don’t normally go in for the art-house film scene, save the one or two that skip into the mainstream, so to read your thoughts on this one was enlightening. I have a fairly ambivalent view of Mark Ruffalo’s career, it must be said, because he’s appeared in numerous rom-com trash flicks, as well as some top class projects like Zodiac and Eternal Sunshine, both wonderful films in their own right. However, he’s not become the household name he probably could have, mainly due (in my opinion) to some dodgy choices of projects in other areas (13 Going On 30? Seriously dude!), but I’ve tended to enjoy his film appearances more often than not. His work in the terrible In The Cut wasn’t too bad, as was his role in Shutter Island (although you already know my thoughts on THAT film), but he’s never given a decent script to work with.
    The casting of Deborah Harry (really? They cast her?) in this film intrigues me, and any film in which the words “Alfred Molina” appear anywhere in the credits would always be worth a look.
    Might have to give this a look when I’m in a mood.

    • rorydean says:

      Thanks Rodney! I do agree with your assessment of Ruffalo’s career and yes, he’s spent far too much time in sub par movies and unmemorable characters. I like the films you mentioned and even though I had some issues with In The Cut, I remain a fan of Jane Campion and actually thought Ruffalo was pretty good – at least leaps and bounds ahead of the rom-coms he’s fumbled through. Any news on The Kids are Alright? I’ve heard mixed.

      I think the sad reality of Ruffalo’s career is he might not ever get the chance at a solid leading man role before he eeks out of that age demographic and for that the system should be ashamed of its self. I think the same thing about Mira Sorvino, who after winning some notable awards has never quite been able to get back on her feet – most likely due in no short part to the same problems Ruffalo has experienced. Another one is Marisa Tomei – who despite appearing in notable films (like the recent Before the Devil Knows you’re Dead, of which I already reviewed) and The Wrestler, well, she hasn’t hit her mark since My Cousin Vinnie.

      Yes, you read it – Deborah Harry. I mean she doesn’t have a lot of screen time nor the most brilliant lines but there is something in the pauses she takes, the in-between spaces that speaks volumes. I suppose that is a trait that is so often absent from many of the leading actors today – they don’t know how powerful a thing is silence. Most of the top actors today are too busy bumping their gums and trying to appear flawless to get it.

      I’d like to hear your further thoughts on this one when you give it a look->

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