With or without you 

As next-door neighbors in a London suburb, Holly (Michelle Williams) and Marina (Anna Friel) grow to be such bosom buddies that they call themselves by the compound name "Harina." The film follows their relationship as little girls in the sunny early-'70s to neurotic career women in the jaded late-'80s, yet it offers no valentine to female friendships. Me Without You could just as easily be titled With Friends Like These ... .

As teenagers and then college students, the two fall into a kind of codependency, with Holly playing the role of supportive, plain-Jane sidekick to Marina's impulsive party girl. Marina schemes against the budding romance between her brother Nat (Oliver Milburn) and Holly, but otherwise may be unaware of how much she undermines her friend, needing her weak so she can feel strong. When Holly and Marina both start sleeping with a smarmy college professor (an appropriately defensive Kyle MacLachlan), their tensions reach a breaking point.

Or at least it should break, but Me Without You instead makes another leap in time, with the girls fulfilling the same old dynamic while nearing their 30s. The film doesn't portray the uncertainties of adulthood with the same insights it brings to the passions of youth, and the last half-hour introduces more new characters and love affairs than it can digest.

Still, the idea that friendships can go bad very much like marriages is so rarely shown on screen that it feels almost radical here. Williams and Friel nicely track the girls' evolution, from awkward punk rockers dressing in trash bags to grown-ups fighting over wedding plans. Perhaps director/co-writer Sandra Goldbacher's best achievement happens in the margins. The girls' changing tastes offer a history lesson in English club fashions and music style, from The Clash to Adam Ant to Depeche Mode. The Peachtree Film Society's Jan. 21 screening comes soon after the untimely death of Clash frontman Joe Strummer, and Me Without You, quite by accident, proves an unexpectedly nostalgic tribute to his music and the young people he influenced.

Peachtree Film Society screens Me Without You Jan. 21 at 7:30 p.m. Lefont Garden Hills Cinema, 2835 Peachtree Road. $7.50. $6.50 for members. 770-729-8487. www.peachtreefilm.org.

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  • Re: Fresh air

    • Local band Manchester Orchestra, who provided the soundtrack, probably would have appreciated a shout-out.

    • on June 29, 2016
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