In My Life Without Me, Sarah Polley plays Ann, a 23-year-old nighttime janitor, married with two little girls, who learns as the story begins that she has inoperable cancer. Her life has always been hemmed in – she lives in a trailer home with her laborer husband (Scott Speedman) next door to her mother (Deborah Harry), and her father (Alfred Molina) is in jail. And so, given two months to live, Ann makes a liberating to-do list that includes taking a lover (Mark Ruffalo as a sad-sack swain) and scouting a suitable second wife for her husband.
The list doesn’t include, however, giving her family the comfort of emotional readiness by telling them she’s dying: Death be not prouder nor more movie coy. Spanish writer-director Isabel Coixet’s work combines an indie aesthetic and a Hollywood heart. Polley’s performance is characteristically honest, and the camera work produces pretty impressionistic collages. But the fact remains that this hankie-yanker is an emotional cheat.