Most impressive about this Isabel Coixet film is that it succeeds in depicting characters living in poverty with compassion and without condescension. Many people question the selfishness of Sarah Polley’s lead character in her preparation for death, which indeed has a selfish aspect, but I don’t think we’re supposed to approve or disapprove; instead, we should appreciate how the diagnosis frees her in some ways, allowing her to take a hard look at her own life, while forcing her to consider the lives of others when she is gone.
Problems: The husband is the weakest character here; he’s supposed to be a slacker weighing the lead down, but he just comes off as bland – bland as a person and too blandly handsome to fit into the movie. The Amanda Plummer character is insulting; aiming for repeated laughs at a pathetic woman with an eating disorder really threw the tone off and ruined every scene she was in. And “the other Anne,” the next-door-neighbor, is too one-dimensionally perfect for the story – plus, the tale she tearfully shares about cradling conjoined twins is truly preposterous; it might work in an Almodovar movie (his company produced this, and his fingerprints seem present in the film), but it came off as silly here, stopping dead an otherwise moving scene.
So yes, the movie has serious flaws (note also the miscast Alfred Molina), but see it for the steadfast depiction of people living (and dying) in poverty.
*Special mention to Deborah Harry for her portrayal of an embittered grandmother whose dreams never came true. It’s the best-written character in the story, and she gives it the best performance of her career.