With Or Without You (1999)
Main cast: Dervla Kirwan (Rosie), Christopher Eccleston (Vincent), and Yvan Attal (Benoit)
Director: Michael Winterbottom


A movie named after my favorite U2 song. How can I resist? With Or Without You is an obviously low-budgeted Irish movie that would have been nothing much if not for its lead actress. It tells the story of 29-year old Rosie who is trying like mad to have a baby with her husband of five years Vincent. When her pen pal and first love Benoit from France drops by out of the blue, she persuades Vincent to let Benoit stay at their place. Soon jealousy rears its ugly head. And Rosie finds that she has so much more in common with Benoit's artistic soul than Vincent's dull middle-class personality. Oh dear.

This movie follows the usual predictable path - baby stress leads to spouses bickering and later... you know. What makes WOWY worth watching is Kirwan's chemistry with Attal. Especially Kirwan, a small, waifish woman whose resonates surprising strength and depth within her small frame. As the movie unfurls, Rosie reveals unexpected depths as a woman who has daydreams of love and romance. But these dreams are slowly being choked out of her by her boring job as a museum receptionist in middle-class Belfast and a life with a husband whom she marries just because.

The scene where she sings off-key to U2 - With out without you! With or without yo--oo-oo-oou oh oh I can't liiive! With or without you! - is heartbreaking. It is her breakdown as well as rebirth when she finally cracks. And with Benoit she finds her soul.

Unfortunately, the movie seems to lose focus half way, spiralling to a rushed and unsatisfying ending that is a betrayal to all Rosie stands for in the last hour and half. I come out of the theatre more dissatisfied than anything. I'm glad to know Rosie, but thanks to the ending, the whole movie seems like a waste of time. A betrayal on the filmmaker's part, if you will. Hmmmph!

Rating: 80


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