|Well known as an accomplished actress, Canada’s Sarah Polley makes her directorial debut with Away From Her, a film which is generating Oscar buzz. (Mark O’Neill, Sun Media)
Sarah Polley must feel as if she’s about to give birth.
Much has been made about her directorial debut with Away From Her, a film that was the darling of the Toronto Film Festival last fall and a huge hit on the fest circuit ever since. Now the time has come for her film to go out into the wide world — the movie is going to open in regular theatres throughout North America, starting with Toronto, New York and Los Angeles on Friday and everywhere else a week later, on May 10.
(We would like to predict a successful and speedy delivery for the film, which is already attracting a lot of talk about Oscar nominations.)
Away From Her stars Julie Christie and Gordon Pinsent and is based on a short story by Alice Munro (The Bear Came Over The Mountain). The film concerns a long-married couple facing separation because the wife, played by Christie, must be institutionalized for Alzheimer’s.
Some see the film as being about enduring love. Some see it as being about the need for selective memory in any marriage. Either way, it’s heartbreaking.
“That’s the thing about Alice Munro’s writing,” Polley, 28, said when talking about Away From Her when it appeared at the fest, “it’s so complex. It’s so concise and so clear, and contains so many contradictions and so many layers of being human. And to get actors to convey that ...” she breaks off and smiles.
Polley is known as an actor, and a very Canadian one. She began working as a child, starring in TV’s Road To Avonlea; and thanks to Exotica and The Sweet Hereafter from Atom Egoyan, was a film star by the age of 18.
In a way, Polley grew up in public in this country, and when she eschewed the big Hollywood profile that was hers for the asking, she further endeared herself to the Canadian public. She embodies all the things Canadians most like to believe about themselves — intellect, modesty, a superior culture and good manners. If she’d pick up a hockey stick she could probably run for prime minister. Just a thought.
Polley has been writing and directing short films (award-winning short films, actually) since 1999.
As for directing a feature, she says, “It was great to have had some responsibility for once in my life. One of the main things I’m frustrated by, being an actor, is the total lack of responsibility you have for anything other than your ability to just get out of your trailer. I loved having a real job.”
The shoot, she says, “Was inordinately stressful and nightmarish, but also exhilarating, and the feeling of collaborating with everyone — I felt kind of like my life was beginning,” she says.
“I love acting and I’ve done it since I was a kid, but there’s no part of me that ever feels like I earned it. It was sort of handed to me. So this was the first time in my life where I struggled and worked my ass off for several years to try to do something, and finally did it. And for the first time I feel like I’m young and I’m beginning something, and the future is ahead of me, and I have so much to learn and so much room to grow. Finally, I feel like I’m 28. I feel like my age, and it’s kind of magical. It’s the feeling of having done something. It’s amazing.”