My Life Without Me

By Jonas Cukierman

As My Life Without Me opens, we hear a voiceover by Sarah Polley (Sweet Hereafter/Go), whose character of Anne is the center focus of the film. From the very first images, we learn that Anne is being forced to evaluate where her floundering life has brought her, and where is it taking her.
Anne is a working stiff, living an unremarkable life in the daily grind.
The “working wounded” parable is also established during the early frames of the picture as we are introduced to Anne while washing windows in the sterile white hallways of a Vancouver B.C. high school. This early string of events captivates the audience as they are made to realize that they can’t kid themselves that the film’s characters, although capable of scathing humor at just the right intervals, are definitely without the luxuries of an easy life or easy answers.
One day Anne is shocked to discover she has been diagnosed with Cancer. It is then that we the spectators are dropped into a disturbing spiral of handheld camera shots and people shuffling about at high speed- the mindset of Anne has just been conveyed.
Only now has Sarah decided to count what’s important in life. One might say her experience is not unlike that of a prisoner who finds religion within the walls. The only difference is that Anne is not getting paroled from the brand of proverbial incarceration that has befallen her.
The central theme of My Life Without Me is no secret. One should appreciate life when it’s destined to last, not when one’s days are numbered. Why then can’t we? Perhaps it is because when the clock ticks, we feel the walls closing in.
This film is simply but poignantly plotted. The fact Anne keeps her illness from her mother (a deliberate albeit muted performance delivered by Deborah Harry [a.k.a Blondie]) and the rest of her family only helps to crystallize her intentions at the very sudden end.
Lastly, there is equilibrium among the characters with which Anne surrounds herself. No matter what their situation in life is, each and every player is underscored by a palatable sense of seeking and longing. A sense of chemistry is therefore omnipresent and the result is a tightly wound story.
Anguished extramarital affairs, soul searching and societal pressures each have a special role in all of the characters. Whether it be Anne’s janitorial coworker, Pulp Fiction’s hilarious but unmistakably melancholic Amanda Plummer, who’s waking hours are spent ruminating about weight loss, to Anne’s hairdresser (Maria de Medeiros, also from Pulp Fiction), whose life is dedicated to the burned out, 80’s era pop music disaster, Milli Vanilli – right down to her braids.

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