My Life Without Me: Movie Review


A young woman’s cancer journey has been brilliantly directed by Isabel Coixet. Instead of turning into a dark and tragic experience, ‘My Life Without Me’ becomes a witty and truly personal insight into a young woman’s mind.

Surviving but not really ‘living’

Ann (beautifully performed by Sarah Polley), is 23 years old, with two little daughters and an attentive husband, Don (played by Scott Speedman). They’re very poor and live in a trailer in Ann’s mother’s back yard, but they are happy with their routine life.

While other women her age are out partying, Ann spends her nights working as a janitor in a university that she could never afford to go to in the daytime. Somehow, she keeps her head above water: surviving but not really “living”.

Shielding loved ones from the impending death

One day, after she collapses, Ann goes in for a medical check-up, where a shy doctor tells her the shocking news: she has terminal cancer.

She tells no one, determined to shield her daughters from the truth and at the same time take control of her life and to make the most out of it.

To her husband (Don), to her eccentric co-worker (Laurie), to her mother and her kids, Ann attributes her pallor to a case of anaemia.

Living to the fullest in the face of death

In private, Ann makes a list of the 10 things she always wanted to accomplish in her life but never had the time. They range from the mundane to the sublime; here are the first 5!

  • Tell my daughters I love them several times a day.
  • Find Don a new wife, who the girls like.
  • Record birthday messages for the girls for every year until they’re 18.
  • Go to Whalebay Beach together and have a big picnic.
  • Smoke and drink as much as I want….

(To see the remaining five, see the movie!)

Suddenly, Ann’s life opens up and the life-force that was nascent in this 23 year-old, working-class woman blooms into a quiet yet steely determination.

Preparing her loved ones for life without her

Burdened with her secret but liberated by her new sense of empowerment, Ann’s emotional journey leads her to unexpected places and gives her life new meaning: the tender moments, the volatile emotions she must keep inside and the recognition that she has the power to understand, examine and fully live her own life.

‘My Life Without Me’ shows us how vulnerable we can be and how dramatically things can change when we take control of our lives.

Brilliant performances

Isabel Coixet has done a brilliant all-round job. The entire cast is superb: Scott Speedman puts in a great performance as the dependent husband; Amanda Plummer, as Ann’s food- obsessed friend, shows Coixet’s taste for unusual characterisation.

Deborah Harry is surprisingly raw as Ann’s bitter mother; Mark Ruffalo, as a lonely man who falls in love with Ann, is very captivating and passionate; and Leonor Watling’s beauty shines through as the Spanish girl. Maria de Medeiros and Alfred Molina enrich the film with their presence, even though they have small cameos. Though all the characters play their part well, Sarah Polley stands out and defines the movie.


This article has been written by Sagar Chandni, a student of Advertising at EMDI, Mumbai.

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