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A magnificent performance by Sarah Polley illuminates every frame of this relatively upbeat melodrama about the last days of a terminally ill young woman. Unlike the makers of Hollywood weepathons like Stepmom, Spanish director Isabel Coixet (making her first North American feature) doesn't float the schmaltz in luxury—Polley makes a convincing member of the lumpen proletariat, saddled with assorted sweet but deadbeat relatives (among them Deborah Harry's wonderfully burned-out mama), a couple of kids conceived before she was 20, and a menial job. Even her predeath “to do” list is low budget, the items including a manicure, birthday tapes for her daughters, a new wife for her husband, and a lover for herself. Since Polley tells no one of her illness, the bittersweet moments are as muted as the silver gray Vancouver backdrops framing the film's more contemplative moments. R, 106 min.

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