Michael Keaton in My Life (1993)

Dealing With Death

With his wife Gail (Nicole Kidman - Malice) expecting their first child businessman Bob Jones (Michael Keaton - Batman Returns) should be happy, in fact everyone should be happy. The trouble is that Bob has been diagnosed with cancer which has spread and has to face the reality that he is going die probably before his child is even born. With Gail persuading Bob to visit a Chinese healer who tells him he needs to let go of the anger he holds inside Bob sets about making a series of videos for his child to tell them about his family and how to do things.

When I watched "My Life" back in 1993 I was moved by this movie as it was the first time I had come across a movie about a man dealing with his imminent death. But since then I have come across this theme a few times and my impression of "My Life" have changed from being impressed to having mixed feelings. Oh there is no doubt that "My Life" is still moving but I suppose with my own knowledge and awareness having developed over the past 20 years I noticed things which now did little for me.

Nicole Kidman in My Life (1993)

So the storyline itself is not the problem because what we have here is the story of Bob and what he realises about himself as he decides to make a video for his future child. Okay so the ending goes a bit off track with, well I will let you discover that for yourself but up till then "My Life" works as an interesting and thoughtful look at the subject of dealing with death and how that forces someone to examine their own life.

My trouble is that when "My Life" is trying to be entertaining it now feels forced but when just being casual it feels real. For example there is a scene where having left the doctors after being told the bad news he runs back in and screams "You can't take away my hope! It's all I have left!". It is a very forced scene, overly dramatic and not what happens in the real world. But then there is the subtlety of a breakfast scene where Bob is talking to Gail who is about to sit down to breakfast and he is taking his medication, a series of different tablets. The simplicity of that scene and the reality of the medication becoming Bob's norm was for me is so more effective than the forced dramatics of Bob running into the office.

It is because of this that the performances from Michael Keaton and Nicole Kidman end up feeling uneven. When Keaton is just talking to his home video camera there is a realness to it, an awkwardness which is just perfect but then you have those dramatic scenes which force him to over act. It is the same with Kidman because the way she responds to Keaton goes from subtly real to forced.

What this all boils down to is that "My Life" is still a moving movie thanks to the storyline of a man facing up to his imminent death. But it is a movie which suffers from forcing scenes and is far better when just playing it out naturally and subtly.