There are two ways to go with the "few-months-to-live" movie. One, the "slushy-mushy weepie" (think Julia Roberts and Campbell Scott in Dying Young), is guaranteed to have you reaching for the sick bucket. Two, the "hoodwinking crowdpleaser" (Y Tu Mamá También), keeps schtum about one of the character's impending toe-curl until the very end.
My Life Without Me falls into the first category but steers clear of schmaltzy sentiment - this may be a drama about life and death, but it's also about the importance of all the little bits in between. Okay, so a quick scan of the plot doesn't sound promising: twentysomething trailer-park resident Ann (Sarah Polley) discovers she's got cancer and only has two months to live. She'll leave behind two cute daughters and a loving hubby (Scott Speedman). But, just as you're grasping for that sick bucket after all, things get interesting - Ann makes a touching, unambitious list of "Things To Do Before I Die", and embarks on a tender affair with mysterious stranger Lee (Mark Ruffalo)...
Written and directed by Spanish filmmaker Isabel Coixet, with Pedro Almodóvar on board as executive producer, this intense American indie consciously avoids unnecessary waterworks. Instead, we get treated to a collection of understated performances from Polley, Ruffalo and Speedman (a haggard Deborah Harry also impresses as Ann's white-trash mom), while every scene manages to be tender, touching and downright tearful without ever resorting to overt tugging of the heartstrings.
Negotiating tricky territory with great skill, My Life Without Me will have you leaving the cinema in search of a stiff drink and a new way of life. Believe us, you'll be savouring every breath from here on out.
A restrained terminal-illness sob story that's blessed with terrific performances, this deserves to be an unlikely box-office hit. Sad, yes, but also incredibly life-affirming.