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My Life Without Me

Year: 2003
Production Co: El Deseo SA
Director: Isobel Croixet
Writer: Isobel Croixet
Cast: Sarah Poller, Scott Speedman, Deborah Harry, Mark Ruffalo, Maria de Medeiros

I found my way to this film because I'm such a fan of Sarah Polley, and I wasn't disappointed. Between her, writer/director Isobel Coixet and assured support from Mark Ruffalo and Deborah Harry it was as beautiful as it was quietly heart wrenching.

I happened to watch some of the DVD extras afterwards hoping to catch more glimpses of Polley's heartbreaking beauty, but was impressed when she said she agreed to do the film because she was sick of depictions of poverty on screen that showed people as stupid, laughable, and somehow deserving of their fate.

At only 23, Ann (Polley) dearly loves her husband (Speedman) and two cute daughters even though she found her way to marriage and motherhood way too early. After a bout of fainting, she goes for tests and is shocked when the doctor tells her cancer is overtaking her reproductive and digestive organs and she has only a couple of months to live.

Ann goes about her life, a night cleaner at the local university and a trailer mum and adored wife by day, without telling anyone. Instead she makes the indie film version of a bucket list, everything from finding a new wife for her husband to making love with another man just to see what it feels like.

While Ann goes about her last few month of living – recording birthday messages for her daughters for every year until they turn 18 and getting her meagre affairs in order – she embarks on an affair with scruffy, damaged loner Lee (Ruffalo), and even though she's cheating on her husband it never feels wrong.

So many miles from Hollywood, there's no miracle last minute cure or tearful goodbye scene. We leave Ann and her family as she just feels a little more tired and a little more sick, having convinced them all it's just a case of anemia.

The denouement of Ann's plans come together a little bit too easily in some instances – like her cute namesake moving in next door and making friends so quickly with her daughters – but it's depicted with such honesty and emotion and you feel for Ann so much it doesn't even matter, feeling effortlessly trumping plot.

Like in all her movies, I could watch Polley stand still and not utter a word, there's just something so earthy and beautiful about her. Just like Marilyn Monroe's appeal used to be her blend of innocence and breathy sexuality, Polley is an addictive blend of intelligence that shines through her face and words and a childlike, honest vulnerability I fall in love with every time. Until Splice, all her films were near-perfect.

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