Me Without You

on July 05, 2002 by Chris Wiegand
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   Anna Friel and Michelle Williams team up as childhood friends in this sensitively scripted--albeit unimaginatively directed--era-skipping saga from Sandra Goldbacher (“The Governess”).

   After disappointing turns in Sara Sugarman's “Mad Cows” and the dreary Nick Leeson biopic “Rogue Trader,” Friel is perfectly cast as the beautiful yet precariously balanced Marina. The unhappy daughter of an absent father and a drug-addled mother, Marina clings to her reclusive, bookish best friend Holly (TV's “Dawson's Creek” star Williams, swapping North Carolina for the English suburbs with considerable aplomb) for some much needed support.

   The two girls are inseparable throughout an adolescence spent in the 1970s as they experiment with the drugs of the day and embark on a number of ill-fated relationships. However, when Holly sleeps with her best friend's brother, Nat (an assured Oliver Milburn), Marina becomes jealous and possessive in equal measures. The pattern recurs in the 1980s when both fall for American tutor Daniel (Kyle Maclachlan), who seduces each in turn, appealing to Marina's wild side, with nights of clubbing and drugging in New Romantic dives, and Holly's romantic and intellectual aspirations, with countryside walks and literary debate. When the girls inevitably discover Daniel's two-timing, their friendship is placed under further strain.

   Faithfully depicting the fads and fashions of the '70s, '80s and '90s, “Me Without You” is at its funniest in “the punk years” (aside from an ill-fitting heroin scene) and its most affecting in “the college years,” when the girls struggle to repair their increasingly ragged relationship. Unfortunately, Goldbacher races through each of the decades at breakneck speed, which means the audience struggles to keep up as the girls move from childhood to eventual parenthood. Subsequently, the potentially dangerous, suffocating nature of their relationship fails to convince. Nevertheless, Friel (experiencing something of a purple patch with this and her appearance in “The War Bride”) and Williams (who deserves more diverse roles like this one) both create sympathetic and thoroughly believable individual characters. Starring Anna Friel, Michelle Williams, Kyle Maclachlan, Oliver Milburn and Trudie Styler. Directed and written by Sandra Goldbacher. Produced by Finola Dwyer. An IDP release. Comedy/Drama. Not yet rated. Running time: 108 min

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