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With or Without You (1999)

Film review: With or Without You (1999), directed by Michael Winterbottom

A Belfast couple, Vincent (Christopher Eccleston) and Rosie (Dervla Kirwan) Boys, are trying their darnedest to have a baby, but it’s just not happening. Then, out of the blue, Benoit (Yvan Attal), Rosie’s French pen pal to whom she hasn’t written in a decade, shows up.

Torn between her feelings for her exotic pen pal and her humdrum husband, what’s a girl to do? She’s stuck at a dreadful job with a horrible boss (Gordon Kennedy), and her husband has probably never stopped fancying his ex girlfriend (Julie Graham).

Other notable appearances: Alun Armstrong and Fionnula Flanagan as Rosie’s parents, and Doon Mackichan as Rosie’s friend and work colleague Deidre.

Aside from the nudity – have now seen more of Mr Eccleston and Ms Kirwan than I ever wanted to – we’re treated to a domestic tale of love and trust and betrayal of trust, and love that perhaps was never meant to be.

It’s the sort of film where not a lot really happens, and it’s a bit slow, but you’re still perfectly sucked in and can’t help yourself, because you’re actually quite enjoying the story. And they’re all speaking in that delicious “Norn Irn” accent too, which at least warms the cockles of my heart.

Monsieur Attal is stereotypically French, you could say – longish, dark hair and stubble and a sort of Bohemian attitude, and passionate and romantic as well. He cooks, he plays music, he cries when he hears Schubert (?). And he’s lovely. Being dreadfully romantic, I just thought, “he’s the one, go with him, he’s lush!” But then, Eccleston has never really been my cuppa tea anyway, so I’m a bit biased.

The story didn’t quite play out the way I expected and perhaps more realistic than soppily escapist, and the use of zooming out so only a small square remains makes the film occasionally look like a photo album or something. It still works.

The sex scenes I could’ve done without, but they were there for illustrative purposes, I guess. All in all, though, a quiet and occasionally quite funny film. And surprisingly enjoyable.

4 out of 5 bunny rabbits.


An easily distracted Swedish introvert residing in Robin Hood Country (Nottingham, UK) with a husband and two cats. She's an eager participant in tabletop and play-by-post roleplaying, woodworking, photography and European travel, when there's not a plague on.

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