With or Without You
works as an above-average television drama; but that's about the height of its ambition. It's strange that Michael Winterbottom, director of the hard-edged, bitter Welcome to Sarajevo
(1997) and the grandiose snowy western The Claim
(2000) should have bothered with anything as routine and undemanding. Perhaps its greatest distinction is that it's set in present-day Belfast without so much as a mention of the Troubles.
The plot is a bog-standard romantic triangle. Rosie and Vincent, who have been married five years or so, want a baby, but nothing's happening. It doesn't help that Rosie's older sister has sprogs burgeoning like mushrooms wherever you look. Then up pops a figure from Rosie's past--Benoît, her pen-pal from before she met Vincent. And being French, he's naturally charming, witty, romantic and everything poor old Vincent isn't. Think you can guess what's coming? Well, most likely you can--right down to the all-too-pat happy ending.
Still, the actors (Christopher Ecclestone, Dervla Kirwan and Yvan Attal are the leads) are accomplished and watchable, the dialogue stays the right side of banal and it's refreshing to see Belfast shown as a civilised, cultured place to live. With or Without You passes an hour and a half pleasantly enough and may even raise the odd chuckle, but it covers well-trodden territory without much new to say.
On the DVD: aptly routine stuff--the theatrical trailer, a bland "making of" featurette and some interviews with the three principal players. Widescreen (16:9 anamorphic) and Dolby Surround Sound give the material the best possible showcase. --Philip Kemp
Vincent Boyd (Christopher Eccleston) and his wife Rosie (Dervla Kirwan) decide to have a baby. They have thrown the condoms in the bin and are trying to get healthy in preparation. However, despite all their best efforts Rosie simply isn't getting pregnant and, to make things worse for the over-stressed couple, Rosie's sexy French penfriend Benoit (Yvan Attal) turns up on the doorstep looking for love, whilst a jealous Vincent starts getting friendly with the local hairdresser.