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My Life Without Me

(Mi vida sin mi)

Year: 2003
Language: English
Format: 35mm Colour
Runtime: 106 min
Director: Isabel Coixet
Producer: Esther Garcia, Gordon McLennan
Executive Producer: Pedro Almodóvar, Agustin Almodóvar, Ogden Gavanski
Writer: Isabel Coixet
Cinematographer: Jean-Claude Larrieu
Editor: Lisa Robison
Sound: Sebastien Salm
Music: Alfonso de Vilallonga
Cast: Deborah Harry, Sarah Polley, Maria de Medeiros, Scott Speedman, Mark Ruffalo, Leonor Watling, Amanda Plummer, Alfred Molina
Production Company: El Deseo D.A., S.L.U., Milestone Productions Inc.

Twenty-three-year-old Ann (Sarah Polley) and her childhood sweetheart Don (Scott Speedman) live with their two young daughters in a trailer behind her mother’s (Deborah Harry) suburban Vancouver home. Don is a labourer who finds work when and where he can get it and Ann works as a night janitor at a local university. Ann seems content with her life, but her world is suddenly ruptured when she is diagnosed with terminal cancer and learns she only has a few months left to live.

Accepting her fate, Ann decides not to tell anyone of her condition. Instead, she sets out to accomplish a list of things she wants to do in the time she has left: record birthday messages for each of her children for every year until they are grown, change her hair, take a lover (although she loves her husband deeply), find a new mother for her children and reconcile with her incarcerated father (Alfred Molina). Her goals get off to a good start when she meets the romantic, bookish Lee (Mark Ruffalo) and welcomes a new neighbour next door – an attractive, single young nurse (Leonor Watling) who gets along swimmingly with Ann’s daughters. As the inevitable draws nearer, Ann’s newfound lust for life begins to enrich and transform the lives of those around her.

An unapologetic weepie, My Life Without Me is essentially a fantasy film effectively disguised as a moving, low key drama. It takes its transparently romantic constructions and weaves them into a believable, emotionally resonant and inspirational film. Director Isabel Coixet’s delicate and sensitive direction gives the film a slyly amusing and sharply poignant edge, while Sarah Polley’s beautifully controlled and understated performance, along with strong supporting work from a fine cast, helps the film steer clear of false sentiment.

My Life Without Me did very well on the international festival circuit and won a number of awards, including Best Canadian Feature at the Atlantic Film Festival and prizes at the Berlin, Bordeaux and Sant Jordi International Film Festivals. It also earned a Goya Award for Coixet’s adapted screenplay. Sarah Polley was named Best Actress in a Canadian Film by the Vancouver Film Critics Circle and was nominated for a Genie Award for Best Actress. My Life Without Me was well received upon its commercial release, with critics almost uniformly praising its ability to transcend its seemingly maudlin premise. It was named one of Canada’s Top Ten of 2003 by an independent, national panel comprised of filmmakers, programmers, journalists and industry professionals.

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