With or Without You (1999) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Michael Winterbottom has shown himself to be a director of substance who is not afraid to take on significant challenges like a couple of Thomas Hardy adaptations. Given that, one must ascribe his decision to create this insipid and unchallenging romantic comedy to a mysterious malady, like some kind of high fever which affected the clarity of this thinking.

Complete spoilers ahead:

Christopher Eccleston and Dervla Kirwan play a young Irish couple who are unable to have a baby. Their inability to come up with a solution to the woman's ticking biological clock leads them into a difficult point in their marriage. Just at this same time, the woman's old French pen pal shows up on their doorstep, and the man's lusty ex-girlfriend decides to make a play to get him back. The two principals split up and have sex with their alternate choices. They then have a passionate reconciliation. Ultimately, they overcome their physical problems and have that baby they always wanted.

Yes, it really is that formulaic. I know it is difficult to believe that a Winterbottom film could be based on such a lightweight and shopworn script, but it is true.

I suppose it could have been partially redeemed by some uniquely Irish ambiance, which is probably why the DVD box features a big green shamrock and quotes a review calling the movie "irresistibly Irish." That quote, however, is a lot o' malarkey, because this story could take place in Sydney or Buffalo or Manchester or Glasgow or Toronto without changing one blessed thing except the accents. It is a completely generic plot with generic characters in generic settings. The most Irish thing about it is that it was named after a U2 song which also gets worked into the film.

There's really nothing special in the film to redeem it except a substantial amount of sex and nudity, but the film is not incompetent, by any means. A lot of top people worked on this project. The direction and acting are completely solid, and the cinematography sometimes approaches brilliance. Unfortunately, the script is just a drag and the film is neither romantic nor comedic, all of which presumably explains how a Michael Winterbottom film somehow managed to go straight to video.


  • There is no Region 1 DVD
  • The Region 2 DVD is quite good. It has:
    • a good 16x9 widescreen anamorphic transfer
    • a featurette on the making of the film
    • the original trailer


  • Dervla Kirwan shows her breasts in three different sex with two different men.

  • Julie Graham shows everything in clear daylight.

  • Christopher Eccleston shows his bum in sex scenes with two different women.

The Critics Vote ...

  • There are no major English language reviews online

The People Vote ...

  • Never released in the UK or USA
The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, it's a C-, a completely competent but totally bland movie. Although it follows the time-worn recipe for a romantic comedy, it is neither very romantic nor particularly funny. It might amuse you if you have never seen any of the ten thousand movies which exploit the same basic formula.

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