The World Without You

The World Without You tells the story of a family coming together over a weekend for the one year anniversary memorial for their son who was slain overseas.

The son, Leo, was a war reporter who was killed in Iraq. The grief has caused his parents’ marriage to disintegrate, and they are now considering divorce. His three sisters quarrel constantly amongst each other, and there is a sense that he was both a buffer and the glue that held them all together. Returning home causes the sisters to regress into old dynamics, which grind up against the people they are now.

Clarissa and Nathan are struggling to conceive, and Clarissa’s mum keeps trampling tactlessly over that subject. Noelle has become super religious now that she’s moved to Israel, which makes Lily, an anti-Zionist atheist feel judged, which just escalates into both of them seeing each other as self-righteous and condescending. Noelle’s relationship with her husband Amram suffers, as Lily teases him about throwing himself into being more Jewish than anyone despite have grown up as bacon-loving Arthur.

Amram and Noelle’s relationship feels the most real of anyone’s there. He comes off as this whiny, smug, little manchild, but behind closed doors, you can tell all this is really getting to him. He has a total inferiority complex and is over-compensating at every turn. Which then becomes completely counter-productive as evidenced by his relationship with Lily. Because if he was just happy in his own skin, he could shrug and say, hey, I’m not the smartest guy in the world, I’m not an athlete, no I wasn’t always as religious as I am now, but hey, who cares? We all have our good points and bad. But instead it becomes this constant need to project an unrealistic self-image, and have his ego shored up, and dominate others in one-upmanship. It’s exhausting for his wife.

Noelle is stuck between wanting to defend and stand by the man she loves, and actually trying to get him to deal with real issues they are facing, like a lack of money because he is out of work. She gets sick of her husband always being treated like a joke, and herself and her marriage by extension. Yet at the same time, she has to ground him when his delusions of self-image stray towards the ludicrous. She spends so much time managing his issues for him, that she barely has any time to notice what she needs.

But when they’re alone and he can feel safe to be real with her, a totally different dynamic unfolds. They have intense sexual chemistry, and she really, truly loves him, and wouldn’t have any other man.

The whole family struggle to communicate, constantly descending into arguments, and pulling secrets from each other like teeth. Each sister in turn seems to articulate themselves better when talking their brother’s widow Thisbe, as though they are talking to their brother by proxy. But she has her own stuff to deal with, and is trying to work out how to break it to them that she’s moving in with a new man.

In some way, The World Without You is about the inconclusive nature of grief and family. While the delivery might be a little saccharin, the film says one of the reasons relationships are so hard and grief so lingering is that they are not given to resolutions, only transformations, and the accumulation of history. Even in death, it may end the person, but not the relationship, and his mother, his father, his sisters, their relationship with him is only transforming, not ending.