Excellent performances from Sarah Polley and Deborah Harry, and a sensitive script from writer-director Isabel Coixet transform what might otherwise have been little more than a disease-of-the-week cable melodrama. Twenty-three-year-old Ann (Polley), who lives with her out-of-work husband (Scott Speedman) and two young daughters (Jessica Amlee, Kenya Jo Kennedy) in a cramped mobile home parked in her mother's (Harry) backyard, learns that her short, difficult life is about to come to an end. After experiencing sharp stomach pains while working her night-shift job on a cleaning crew — she makes a doctor's appointment. Instead of another pregnancy, tests reveal tumors on both ovaries and because Ann's so young, the cancer has already reached her stomach and liver. She has only two or three months to live. Once the shock wears off, Ann makes the unusual decision not to tell her family — she blames her sickly appearance on anemia — and instead makes a list of all the things she wants to do before she dies. Ann wants to record a series of annual birthday messages for her two daughters and do something about her hair. She also wants to have sex with someone other than her husband, and make someone fall in love with her. She gets the opportunity one afternoon at a laundromat when she meets Lee (Mark Ruffalo), a depressed land surveyor who's been nursing a crush on Ann since he first spotted her in the local diner. Alone with the knowledge of imminent death but granted new perspective on what it means to live, Ann begins recording her daughter's messages, examining her own short life as a way of anticipating their futures. The film doesn't always work — certain fantasy flourishes feel out of place and Amanda Plummer plays Ann's diet obsessed co-worker as too much of a caricature — but Polley's Ann is a complex character of understandably questionable judgement whose own desires might not be in everyone else's best interests. It's a great part for a great actress, and Harry, finally fulfilling her early promise as a dramatic actress, is nearly as good as an embittered prison widow whom life has disappointed at every turn. Although adapted from Nanci Kincaid's short story "Pretending the Bed Is a Raft" (a game Ann plays with her daughters), the film bears a uncanny resemblance to the fondly remembered made-for-TV movie SUNSHINE (1973), in which a terminally ill young mother leaves an audio journal for her infant daughter.
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- Released: 2003
- Rating: R
- Review: Excellent performances from Sarah Polley and Deborah Harry, and a sensitive script from writer-director Isabel Coixet transform what might otherwise have been little more than a disease-of-the-week cable melodrama. Twenty-three-year-old Ann (Polley), who l… (more)