Michelle Williams, Anna Friel, Kyle MacLachlan, Oliver Milburn, Trudie Styler"/>
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With: Michelle Williams, Anna Friel, Kyle MacLachlan, Oliver Milburn, Trudie Styler
Written by: Laurence Coriat, Sandra Goldbacher
Directed by: Sandra Goldbacher
MPAA Rating: R for language, sexual content and drug use
Running Time: 107
Date: 09/02/2001

Me Without You (2002)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Friends 4-Ever (and Ever)

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

I don't know why, but I have a hard time with movies that take placeover long periods of time, especially passing decades. Leapfrogging overhuge numbers of years like that means that you're forced to land onsignificant events, and significant events only. But when a moviedoesn't have any insignificant events, I miss them.

It may sound funny, but I like meaningless scenes of people eating breakfast, coming home from work and plopping their keys in a ceramic dish, putting on makeup in the car. It's how we learn about them.

I recently re-watched Francois Truffaut's Jules and Jim and felt this gap, and I felt it again when I saw Sandra Goldbacher's otherwise accomplished Me Without You.

Me Without You is a coming-of-age tale of two young girls that takes place over the course of two decades. Holly and Marina (played by Ella Jones and Anna Popplewell as pre-teens) begin by burying a treasure chest of their favorite things and pledging everlasting friendship.

By the next leap in time, the teens -- Holly played by Michelle Williams and Marina by Anna Friel -- have already begun subtly growing apart.

Holly has become bookish and shy while Marina has given in to the seductive rhythms of the 1980s, modeling herself after the likes of Siouxsie and the Banshees (to that end, the film comes with a great 80s-driven score).

The first sign of trouble comes when Marina and Holly decide to crash a punk rock party. Marina tries heroin for the first time, while Holly has sex with Marina's older brother Nat (Oliver Milburn), whom she's had a crush on her whole life.

Afterward, each girl is equally disgusted with the other. But their friendship endures long enough for more jumps through time. In college, they both begin an affair with a professor (Kyle MacLachlan), each unbeknownst to the other, that leads to more heartbreak.

Even with so much ground to cover, Goldbacher (The Governess) and co-screenwriter Laurence Coriat (Wonderland) manage to get in convincing portraits of supporting characters, parents and friends, throughout the years. Holly comes complete with upper-middle class Jewish parents (including a domineering mother) while Marina's parents consist of a come-again/go-again father and a drunken diva mother.

And even though Holly and Marina represent the cookie-cutter characters of the straight, smart girl and the loose, party girl, the rich performances by Friel, and especially Williams -- an American actress who becomes fully English -- round out the square edges. The film manages to radiate enough truth to become a complete and compelling portrait.

And yet that time-jump thing catches up with the film in the end. It goes too far -- years past the point where our patience runs out. Another similar movie, Girls Can't Swim that opens this week as well as the king of all coming-of-age/deteriorating friendship movies, Terry Zwigoff's Ghost World, both take place over the course of a summer, and it's a much easier chunk of time to handle.

Though I do want to single out Williams' performance once again. I can't emphasize enough how good she is in this role and how far she takes an otherwise ordinary character. It's an Oscar-worthy performance in a film unlikely to be recognized.

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