Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Me Without You [2001]
Me Without You [2001]
Momentum Pictures, VHS Tape, 14 October, 2002
Director: Sandra Goldbacher
Actors: Ella Jones, Anna Popplewell
Features: PAL
List Price: £14.99
Used Price: £1.98
Third Party Price: £8.87
Availability: Limited availability
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Customer Reviews

"I don't know who I am when we're not us. There's no me without you"
This 2001 film from British director Sandra Goldbacher is a coming-of-age story about intense female teenage bonds and what happens to them on the road to adulthood. Marina (a splendid Anna Friel) and Holly (Michelle Williams) are in young years already fervently loyal best friends who live next door to each other. Perhaps as a reaction to this over-intensity and partly due to different parental backgrounds, their personalities develop into near opposites: Marina is a self-consciously wild party-girl and eclectic dresser who dabbles with heroin and casual sex, whilst Holly is a Sylvia Plath reading intellectual, a steadier, introverted being who feels mousy and unsexy (her domineering mother is shown telling her "There are pretty people, and there are clever people," as if the two were mutually exclusive). Marina deliberately tries to sabotage the burgeoning love between her brother Nat (Oliver Milburn) and Holly, tearing up a letter intended for her, and manipulatively telling him of Holly's affair with Daniel, their American lit-crit professor. Predictably jealous of Holly finding favour with Daniel (Kyle MacLachlan) - both of whom are Jewish and intellectual - Marina seduces him and tries to impress him by name-dropping Ingmar Bergman. Needless to say, the friendship between the two young women quickly becomes toxic and neurotic as Marina behaves increasingly possessive and histrionic, interpreting Holly's growing automony as a rejection of the friendship itself.

It is a fascinating topic and one to which many women can relate. However, there are a few facets that forestall 'Me Without You' from being a great film. The director drew inspiration from an osmotically close bond she experienced as a young teenager which petered out, but was not reflected upon by the two in adulthood (at least not together). In the film, you feel that the difficulties are dramatically presented, but without them being questioned or actively dealt with by the protagonists. Holly fails to confront Marina with the truth of her behaviour, tacitly tolerating her unspoken dominance in the friendship. For her part, Marina also seems to be unable to mature beyond competitivism and rivalry with Holly. This prevents growth and development in character, in the light of which the ending seems unsatisfactorily positive. The viewer is left wondering when Holly will give her quiet suffering a voice and set Marina clear limits in their contact. Also, the script (written by Goldbacher and Laurence Coriat)occasionally lets the film down. The expression "It's so street!", for example, is used so often it grates; the funky jargon of the period could have been used much more liberally and subtly and to better effect. The soundtrack also comes across as a little 'stuck on' and predictable: a Joy Division poster hangs on the wall, records of The Clash, Adam Ant and Depeche Mode spin on the turntables and an attempted suicide (by Marina's mother, deftly performed by Trudie Styler) is accompanied by the music of Nick Drake, himself a famous suicide.

It's nevertheless worth watching, especially for those who feel nostalgic for 1970s and 1980s fashion and music and for those who have experienced a close, deep friendship drifting into a stifling and over-dependent osmosis.

Also recommended: My Summer of Love, The Page Turner, Look at Me, Gespenster (a German film)

Me can do without you.
I am actually quite surprised by the good reviews this film has recieved. I found it to be neither realistic nor evocative of the 70s and 80s, except for in a kitschish stereotypical 'charlie' perfume meets Adam and the Ants kind of way. In fact the film was so slight that it was only half way through that I realised what the names of the main characters were, and right now, unfortunately, I simply can't remember. 'Me Without You' uses every cliche in the book to convey suburban teen angst (experimental drug taking, promiscious sex and Russian literature), which unfortunately limits its scope and potentional to deliver something vaguely more challenging than the usual teen movies offered up by Hollywood. I felt no real tangible sense of which part of Britain this film portrays which is I suppose effective in the faceless mass produced suburbs the two main characters grow up in, however when they move away to university I was left guessing whether they were in Bournmouth or Brighton. That's a shame because itis so often the case in British films that beyond London, towns, cities and villages merge into the one 'British' cliche. In terms of the casting both actresses do the best they can with largely one dimensional opposing characters - one sexy and adventurous, the other dowdy and bookish. This film is largely a self indulgent montage to teenage angst, which is fine when you are a teenager, but surprisingly grating when you are old enough to know better but still young enough to remember what that was like... Oh and William's English accent is an awful combination of plumby home counties and her Scarlet Johannson American drawl. More regional British films might remedy America's romanticised and stereotyped take on England's many and varied accents. Or next time why not just get an English actress?

Bittersweet movie about friendship, growing up and identity
This is a film that I picked up cheap ex-rental and then bought again for the commentary track. This is a keeper and one that I can come back to again and again.

This movie is very much about friendship and definitely has the bitter with the sweet. We see the good and the bad of what the friendship brings to Holly and Marina. I like the theme of identity also and the way that they each experiment with trying on bits of the other's basic personality.

Being 38 this movie is nice to be nostalgiac about, seeing the changing fashions and the music. I also like watching the characters growing up.

Last but not least I love the acting in this movie. Not having watched Dawson's creek much, Michelle Williams is a revelation. Her accent is convincing even though she's American and both she and Friel really put across the emotions of the characters so well.

If you like the themes of friendship, personal identity and growing up then this will not disappoint. Other friendship movies that you may not have heard of and that I heartily recommend are My First Mister (American independent film) and Love Me If You Dare (French).

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