Ann (Sarah Polley) is a young Vancouver mum of two girls, married to her first boyfriend (Scott Speedman), and living in a caravan in her mum's (Deborah Harry) backyard. When she believes she is pregnant but is told instead that she has tumours and just two months to live, she decides not to tell any of her loved ones, to spare them, and herself, the anguish of expectations of death. She makes a list of things to do, leaves a life-plan for her children, with recorded messages for each of their birthdays until they're 18. Finally, she visits her dad (Alfred Molina) in jail and has an affair with a man she meets in a cafe (Mark Ruffalo).
 

3.5
Polley shows us just why she is one of the most talented young actresses working today.

My Life Without Me is quite an exquisite small film about a huge subject, death and dying. It stars the fantastic Canadian actress Sarah Polley (The Sweet Hereafter, The Claim) who we most recently saw in the very ordinary Hollywood remake of Geroge Romero\'s Dawn Of The Dead. But there is nothing ordinary about this film, nor Polley\'s performance in it.

Playing lead character, Ann, Polley shows us just why she is one of the most talented young actresses working in film today. Ann is 23 and doing it tough. Working as a night cleaner at a local university she lives with her two young kids and unemployed husband (Underworld?s Scott Speedman) on her mother?s property (a great cameo by rock legend-cum-actress Deborah Harry). Ann?s life is happy enough but uneventful, that is until she is told by her surprisingly compassionate po-faced doctor (Julian Richings, with a face just made for the screen), that she only has two months left to live. Ann chooses to not only keep this devastating news a secret but also, ever so quietly, she decides to live completely ?in the moment? for the first time ever. Bearing witness to this transformation makes for an affecting viewing experience. Polley ? like Philip Seymour Hoffman ? is one of the few younger actors working today with the skill and empathy to handle weighty material such as this. And watching Polley act opposite the equally great Mark Ruffalo (You Can Count On Me) who plays her new love interest, also provides some rewarding moments.This is such rich, moving material. And while at times the film threatens to move into gooey sentiment, it withdraws, recoiling from that manipulation just in time. This is no Julia Roberts weep-fest. Nor does it milk the ?white trash? cow. On paper Ann?s setting is underclass - she has no money, lives in a trailer, has a crappy dead end job, etc etc. But you won?t hear her swearing, singing Jerry Springer?s praises nor beating her kids. Ann?s ordinariness is simply demographic. She is depicted as a three dimensional person over caricature, as someone simply trying to do the best she can. White trash or underclass characters are rarely depicted with such grace or economy in North American films at least? (Freeway anyone? It?s a fun film but it also makes my point?)Therefore, My Life Without Me has quite a lovely quality about it, a modest Canadian production, and an adaptation of American writer Nancy Kincaid?s short story Pretending The Bed Is A Raft. Writer/director Isabel Coixet was not afraid to depart heavily from the original text, moving the story?s original setting from Louisiana?s steamy climes to the more icy one of Toronto. She also fashioned Ann very much out of her own personal vision of ?heroine?. In Kincaid?s short story, Ann tells everyone about her imminent death. For the film however Coixet wanted to explore what the character might do if she did not, a much braver move under the circumstances.It is no wonder that Pedro Almodovar?s production company El Deseo picked up this script and brought it to fruition, their first English-language production. While My Life Without Me is nowhere near as complex nor accomplished as an Almodovar film (eg Talk To Her), they do share common themes about life, death and family, and stylistic approaches.Consequently this fifth feature by Isabel Coixet is a very good film, brimming with palpable atmospheres, excellent performances, modest observations and poetic flourish. Comments by Jaimie LeonarderThere are only a few moments that truly change us and deliver clarity in terms of our destiny. Death is definitely one of these but we appear to avoid it in Western society. Isabel Coixet (Director) has created an extraordinary film that challenges us to embrace our lives. Ann?s strength in the face of adversity reminds us of what is important. A deeply moving film, beautiful cinematography and an intelligent adaptation. Watch out for Debra Harry as the nihilistic mother