Me Without You

The little-seen and under-appreciated ‘Me Without You’ dramatizes a co-dependent friendship in ways pedestrian and true. The story of two childhood girlfriends over several decades of their lives, it depicts how closeness can be both a blessing and a curse. Marina is the adventurous and curious girl who coaxes the somewhat bookish and serious Holly out of her shell at the start of what might be a lovely, mutually supportive friendship. However, Marina’s streak of selfishness rooted in her own insecurity, and Holly’s poor sense of self and low-esteem combine to make theirs a toxic friendship premised on co-dependency. While Marina supplies the daring and drive, Holly provides rootedness and wisdom — but their intentions almost always play out at cross purposes, and while the script makes it easy to vilify Marina for her self-centered behavior, she has an equally liable partner-in-crime given Holly’s weakness.

Co-dependency is most commonly thought of with regards to romantic relationships, but we have all encountered the co-dependent family members and friends, even colleagues, who find strength in each other but are blind to the cost of their insularity. When a single relationship begins to impede on healthy ways of relating to others within a community and the world at large — when there is an over-reliance on a specific person to fulfill one’s needs, and independent thought and action become impossible without painful repercussions within the relationship — co-dependency has taken root. This can lead to isolation, resentment and perverse ways of relating to others that are predicated on power dynamics within the co-dependent relationship rather than built on genuine connection and involvement with others. People in co-dependent relationships might use other people to inspire jealousy, bring joy, or otherwise control and manipulate each other. They treat other people as objects, rather than equal human beings, and this eventually results in greater isolation and stronger levels of co-dependency. In a sense, the very thing that causes co-dependency is what exacerbates it.

The film charts Holly and Marina’s relationship through many betrayals, reconciliations, and upheavals before concluding on an ambiguous note of maturity. In life, co-dependent relationships don’t always play out dramatically, and if we stop to consider how we relate to others, we might find that some of our relationships might seem to veer into co-dependency. But the key is to consider whether someone else is the source of one’s sense of identity and self — and though this sounds relatively straightforward, it’s not necessarily a comfortable nor easy question to answer.

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