Imaginative, impetuous, and wild Diana McFee (Evan Rachel Wood) cannot wait for her adult life to begin. While awaiting the final days of high school in the lush springtime, Diana tests her limits with sex and drugs as her more conservative friend Maureen (Eva Amurri) watches with concern. Then the two teens are involved in a Columbine-like shooting incident at their school and are forced to make an impossible choice.
The film mostly focuses on Diana’s adulthood (Uma Thurman). She leads an apparently normal life as an art history university professor. She has a daughter, Emma (Gabrielle Brennan), and she’s married to the professor who once gave a speech in her school about the power of visualization, how one can shape one’s own future in this way. However, Diana continues to feel guilty about something that doesn’t let her sleep.
One day she gets a call from Emma’s school, where the nuns running the school complain about Emma's behavior. At an ice cream parlor, Diana asks Emma not to hide any more as she is always doing; Emma responds to her mother's reproaches with the claim that Diana hates her. They leave the parlor abruptly and as they’re about to get into the car, Diana sees her husband with another woman. She hesitates about confronting him and instead remains in the middle of the street where she is hit by a pickup truck. On her way to the hospital she imagines that blood is escaping from her body. In reality, she hasn’t been hurt by the accident. Instead, Diana is remembering the complications she had following an abortion in her high school days.
The day of the 15th anniversary of the shooting, a memorial is held at the school. Diana drives in front of the school several times until she finally decides to stop and bring in some flowers. As she enters the school she’s asked whether she’s one of the survivors. She smiles and walks inside, first leaving flowers on some desks and then moving on to the rest rooms where one of the shootings took place. At that moment she gets a call from Emma’s school informing her that her daughter is missing and that a pink piece of clothing has been found in the woods. She drives there and walks through the woods, shouting out her daughter's name. Emma appears before Diana’s eyes for a moment but then vanishes almost as soon as she has appeared.
It is revealed what occurred fifteen years earlier in the washroom where Diana left the flowers. She and Maureen had been forced to decide who would survive when confronted by the shooter, Michael Patrick (John Magaro). Though Maureen had offered herself first, the shooter questioned why Diana should not die. In response, Diana agreed to be killed and was shot by Michael, who then killed himself. At that moment, Diana dreamed the adult life she thought she would have if she let Maureen die and Emma was the child she would have had if she had not gone through the abortion.
At the anniversary, Diana is asked once again if she is a survivor. She replies "No" with a smile, with a sense of relief that she did the right thing by dying and having her friend live her life.Uma Thurman as Diana McFee
Evan Rachel Wood as young Diana McFee
Eva Amurri as Maureen
Brett Cullen as Paul McFee
Gabrielle Brennan as Emma McFee
Adam Chanler-Berat as Ryan Haswhip
Oscar Isaac as Marcus
Maggie Lacey as Amanda
Nathalie Paulding as young Amanda
Jewel Donohue as Mother
Tanner Max Cohen as Nate Witt
Lynn Cohen as Sister Beatrice
John Magaro as Michael Patrick
Molly Price as Diana's mother
Isabel Keating as Maureen's mother
Mike Slater as young Tom
The Life Before Her Eyes received a generally negative response; as of August 2011, Rotten Tomatoes reported that 24% of critics had given the film positive reviews, based on 35 reviews – with the consensus being the film is "Despite earnest performances, Life Before Her Eyes is a confusing, painfully overwrought melodrama." Metacritic reported the film had an average score of 32 out of 100, based on 15 reviews.
The film opened in limited release on April 18, 2008, in the United States and grossed $20,220 in eight theaters its opening weekend, averaging $2,527 per theater. As of Jun 27–29, 2008, it had a domestic total gross of $303,439, and a production budget of $13 million.