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It begins in the wake of a terrible diagnosis. Grace (Anna Chancellor) has brain cancer and the outlook isn’t good. Her doctor schedules surgery in five days, but warns her to be prepared for the worst. This goes over surprisingly well with Grace but those around her, not so much. Her husband Tom (James Fleet) enters a state of personal hysteria, espousing quips about her seeming detachment while being oblivious to her true feelings, instead distracted by his future sex life and how long it takes to warm a muffin in the microwave.
In pops Richard (John Hannah), almost literally, crawling into her bed in the middle of the night telling her she’s the love of his life. He’s her first husband, whom she left years ago after he cheated on her. Hearing the news she is sick, he is desperate to have her back in his life for the few short days she has left. Along with him is their daughter Zoe (Katie Boland), who is the opposite of Grace and Tom’s daughter Kaitlyn (Hannah Emily Anderson), both experiencing their own bits of turmoil and successes under the flummox of a house now in dysfunctional chaos, made worse when Tamara (Hermione Norris), Richard’s latest wife, the one he left Grace for, arrives and sends the whole thing into further upheaval.
Written and directed by Joan Carr-Wiggin, Love of My Life is a tonal rollercoaster about a woman in denial who should be the very center of everyone’s attention despite everyone using her as a source to prop up their own fallibilities. The house becomes a circus tent of quirky characters and situations as Grace struggles to hold on to any bit of normality, refusing to tell anyone at the architecture firm where she works about her condition and setting about to read a book and thinking as positively as she can. As empathy falls to the wayside and self-interests circle, Grace ponders whether she should have gone to Machu Picchu instead of Disneyland.
Love of My Life has a familiar feel to it, a light-hearted breezy experience that plays the same chords as many others, emulating the spinning plates tropes of dealing with hardships, wielding a benign comedic tone found in films like Four Weddings and a Funeral and the like, though it is lacks most of the charm of that film. The pace is pretty steady with few larger conflicts that drifts down its numerous tributaries often, leaving Grace right out of the story for stretches as the family around her attempts to solve the petty issues of their own lives, putting the onus on the supporting cast to carry it along. Unfortunately, few of them are very likable.
The saving grace, if you’ll pardon the wording, is Grace herself, a strong-willed woman who doesn’t exactly fit the mold for a film character facing possible death, even if the idea of comedy while dying isn’t new. Chancellor, who has spent a career on television, is fun to watch and keeps it entertaining, even as the clichés pool around her in the story. A simple, but well-acted story, Love of My Life has its moments as it wanders along its expected path, even if it can’t live up to its potential.
Movie description: Love of My Life is a 2017 comedy/drama about a woman facing potential deadly surgery and refusing to accept the possibilities.
Director(s): Joan Carr-Wiggin
Actor(s): Anna Chancellor, John Hannah, Hermione Norris