With a new baby at home and a new movie to promote, Sarah Polley has just entered the working woman's Twilight Zone.
Polley, 33, appears to be truly, madly, deeply in love with her new baby daughter, so it must be bittersweet for the Canadian filmmaker to be out stumping for Take This Waltz, a film about love and marriage that stars Michelle Williams, Seth Rogen and Luke Kirby (opening in theatres Friday). It probably makes everything a bit easier that Take This Waltz is an absolutely brilliant film.
Williams and Rogen star as a sweet married couple with a relationship that's dying. There are awkward corners in their union and a lot of things going unsaid, and when Williams encounters a handsome neighbour (Kirby), their mutual attraction threatens to overwhelm everything else.
"I wanted to make a film that really delved into the concept of desire, how we desire, what it looks like, feels like," says Polley. "And I wanted to write a film from all the characters' points of view, with minimal judgement. There are no heroes and certainly no villains."
Polley has inspired wonderful performances from the cast of Take This Waltz, which includes Sarah Silverman as a recovering alcoholic. There's already early Oscar buzz about Williams' performance in the central role of Margot. Polley says there's a wealth of talented women in their 30s and she initially thought there were a few who could have been cast as Margot. "But when I met Michelle she helped me understand something about the character that nobody else could have. As soon as I met her, I knew there was nobody else."
She continues, "There's something about her wisdom and her ability to laugh at herself that were so perfect for this character. And that the character really needed. The character does a lot of things you could be critical of and that aren't always likeable, and the film really needed an actor who could make this character empathetic. Michelle has such a vulnerability but also such a wisdom. She's such a multi-dimensional person, and I think that's what makes her so magical as an actor."
That mix of vulnerability and wisdom could be said about Polley, too. The Canadian actress/writer/director has been in the public eye since she starred in TV's Road To Avonlea as a child. Polley graduated to adult roles at 16 and after Atom Egoyan cast her in The Sweet Hereafter, she was a film star at age 18. Among her three dozen films are Go, No Such Thing, My Life Without Me, The Weight of Water, The Law of Enclosures, Luck, Dawn of The Dead, The Secret Life of Words, Beowulf & Grendel, Mr. Nobody and Splice.
Her filmmaking began in 1999 with short movies, and her first feature, Away From Her, was a critical and commercial success. Polley became the first woman to win a Genie Award as best director. (She was also Oscar nominated for best adapted screenplay; Julie Christie got an Oscar nomination for best actress.)
"Every short film I ever made, and my two features, are all about long-term relationships and the end of it and another person," says Polley. "It's material I've been returning to over and over since I was 20."
Speaking of Take This Waltz, she continues, "It's about our familiarity, our passion and lust -- are they mutually exclusive, or can they co-exist? Life can have a gap, a kind of emptiness, which we try to fill by doing new things or upending our lives for the sake of new things. And there's our surprise that life never totally resolves itself, never entirely feels complete," she says. "No matter what we do."