Anne (Sarah Polley) is 23 years old, is married with two small daughters, lives in a trailer in her mother’s yard, and works as a nightshift cleaner. She is diagnosed with advanced ovarian cancer and told she has no more than three months to live. She decides to tell no one that she is dying and makes a list of things to do in the time she has left.

She records birthday messages for her daughters, looks for a new wife for her husband (Scott Speedman), explores her troubled relationship with her mother (Deborah Harry), and has an affair with a man she meets in a laundromat (Mark Ruffalo). The last stages of her illness and her death are not shown; the focus is on how she chooses to live a life that has a new shape, both curtailed and illuminated by the knowledge of how soon it will end.


There is much material here for exploration of end-of-life issues. The scenes between Anne and her physician are sympathetic to both, the doctor convincingly awkward and candid in his struggle to break the bad news to her and in his maintenance of their relationship. Anne’s decision not to tell anyone that she is dying may be seen either as selfish or as heroic. The film allows both, provoking interesting questions about the role of the family in the treatment of terminal illness. We tend to be more familiar with the ethical issues surrounding not telling the patient a poor prognosis; what of not telling the domestic support system?

This film would be an interesting companion to Ikiru (see this database).

Primary Source

Sony Pictures Classics