review by KJ Doughton, 21 June 2002
28th Seattle International Film
Me Without You starts out like
a sentimental, sappy chick flick with a tie-dyed shirt thrown over
it. Opening in the groovy, free-spirited early seventies, we view
chummy childhood chicks Marina (Anna Friel) and Holly (Michelle
Williams) as they jump rope, hula-hoop, and roller skate in an
idealized, soft-focus haze. It’s also the swinging U.K., baby, with
both girls prancing around in fluorescent, oversized sweaters and
feather-covered stripper scarves. Can you say shagadelic?
destined to be a wild child. Her bohemian mother (Trudie Styler,
wife of recording artist Sting) pushes the philosophy that looks
matter most. Holly’s more conservative parents stress that "some
people are pretty people, and some are clever people," insisting
that their deep-thinking daughter fits the latter category. With
each girl subscribing to such a contrasting values system, is there
any hope that the friendship will survive?
Me Without You
follows both girls into the new millenium, as they cross the bridges
of sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll on their way to full-fledged
womanhood. Sex arrives in the form of Marina’s older brother Nat
(Oliver Milburn), an Adam Ant lookalike whom Holly secretly loves,
and a sleazy, hedonistic college professor (Kyle McLaughlan) who
lusts after both buddies with disastrous consequences.
The drugs come in
the form of pot, coke, and heroin, all of which are gobbled or shot
up by the impulsive Marina, while shunned by shy, reluctant Holly.
The rock ‘n roll
is a smorgasbord of British new wave and pop, from The Clash to
Depeche Mode to Echo and the Bunnymen. It’s clear that director
Sandra Goldbacher ("The Governess") holds such alternative English
music close to her heart, using it to emphasize the passing of
different eras while her two protagonists endure both bonding and
The acting is
sensational. Williams, an American actress from the Dawson’s
Creek television series, sports a convincing British accent and
morphs from tentative wallflower to worldly, intellectual beauty.
Resembling a more volatile, energetic Marissa Tomei, Friel is
equally good, embodying a character who is all charisma and
fireworks on the surface, but needy, shallow, and frightened beneath
that thin outer layer of confident-looking bravado. There’s a scene
in Me Without You where Marina, struggling to find a human
anchor after nearly losing her mother to an overdose of pills,
attempts to seduce Holly’s proper Jewish dad (Allan Corduner). Her
desperate gestures, and his knowing, gentle refusal, are pure
perfection, sad and true when the scene could have been exploitative
There are less
convincing elements that rear their tarnished heads as well. The
girls’ polar opposite families get along remarkably well. Too well,
perhaps, considering their diametrically opposite views on life, the
world, and everything. Would Holly’s decent, pillar-of-the-community
dad really let his hair down and start boogying with Marina’s boozy
mom during a neighborhood get-together?
Me Without You is a sum greater than its parts. The viewer is
taken on a journey spanning nearly three decades of bittersweet
camaraderie and history, in which we feel that we truly know what
makes Holly and Marina tick, and our hearts go out to them as both
continue to negotiate their imperfect, love-hate relationship.
Suddenly, all the slow motion and soft focus that they’re bathed in
comes across not as manipulative, but earned.
Seattle International Film Festival
NR - Not Rated.
This film has not yet