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(Thom Fitzgerald) has Don McKellar as a gay New York Jewish cellist
who appears to die from AIDS complications. But assistant DA Parker
Posey suspects an intervention from his cabal of fabulous friends and
family, which launches galloping flashbacks. The Event was meant to be
filmed in Canada, but it became a New York story when local financing
fell through. That dislocation hobbles the film, and the funhouse
casting doesn't help Sarah Polley and Olympia Dukakis as McKellar's
family! McKellar looks out of his emotional depth, but then this whole
film suffers from a painful air of fakery. 114 min. NN (CB) Opens Oct
3 at Bayview, Varsity.
* * * * *
THE EVENT (**)
Starring Don McKellar, Brent Carver. Written by Tim Marback, Steven
Hillyer, Thom Fitzgerald. Directed by Thom Fitzgerald. (STC) 114 min.
Opens Oct 3.
The point at the heart of Thom Fitzgerald's new drama -- that the AIDS
crisis is not over -- is a valuable one. Health Canada estimates that
as of June of this year, there are 50,000 people living with HIV/AIDS
in Canada, 30 per cent of whom do not know they're infected. Drug
therapies may be more effective but the disease has no cure, people
still die and to be complacent about it is reckless. By presenting the
story of a man who wants to determine how his life will end, the
Halifax-based director (The Hanging Garden, The Wild Dogs) also aims
to make some provocative points about euthanasia.
But good intentions and a nickel won't get you a Twizzler -- The Event
is hobbled by a shoddily written script, inconsistent direction and
piss-poor performances by a series of usually dependable indie-film
favourites. Though it tries to assume the contours of a mystery --
with a badly miscast Parker Posey in the role of the intrepid sleuth
-- the story is instead a graceless melodrama about an ailing
HIV-positive musician who's exhausted conventional treatments. With
heavy hearts, Matt (Don McKellar) and his loved ones -- including his
doctor Brian (Brent Carver), saintly mom Lila (Olympia Dukakis) and
snarky sister Dana (Sarah Polley) -- get ready for one last shindig.
In the weeks after Matt's "event," Parker's stern-faced assistant DA
searches for the truth.
But there is no mystery here and Fitzgerald's laborious attempts to
suggest otherwise is baffling. No wonder the actors look so confused
-- poor Posey acts as if she has a terrible headache and just wants to
lie down for a bit. With its unpleasant cocktail of saccharine
flashbacks, unsaucy banter, implausible interrogation-room
confrontations and ham-fisted AIDS polemics, The Event plays like a
cross between Longtime Companion and the worst-ever episode of Law &
Order. JASON ANDERSON
14/08/03 - Showbiz news section
Godfather is my grandfather
By Suzanne Stevenson, Canadian News
Actress Sarah Polley said last night she was 'totally shocked' to
discover Marlon Brando was her grandfather. The 24-year-old singer
and actress learned of the link with the Oscar-winning actor in a new
autobiography by her grandmother, Linda Buchan.
'I've heard Marlon Brando has more than a score of children all over
the world,' the excited Polley told reporters attending the premiere
of her latest movie, The Event. 'I can't begin to imagine how many
cousins I have that I didn't even know about before. If we were to
have a get-together, it would be a virtual United Nations!'
Buchan reportedly had a blood test which proves Brando was the father
of her daughter Larissa, Polley's mother, who was born after the
Godfather star had an affair with her in the 1940s when both were
attending the Actor's Studio in New York. Buchan, herself the
daughter of a famous man, 39 Steps author and former Governor-General
John Buchan, gave Larissa up to Ottawa's Sisters of Perpetual
Adoration orphanage upon returning to her native Canada. It is not
clear whether Brando, 79, knew anything about the child.
Polley, who is appearing in North American cinemas this month in My
Life Without Me in addition to The Event, appears to share some
family traits with Brando. Both are prone to excessive indulgence in
quioxtic left-wing causes and are renowned for their fiery
temperaments and chaotic personal lives. The mother of twin boys by
the British director Michael Winterbottom, Polley reportedly is
carrying the child of her paramour, muslim mystic, musician and
filmmaker Dawud Wharnsby-Ali.
Find this story at
I am looking for "Someone To Believe In". Does anybody have that episode,
E-mail me back at:
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
Maybe you guys can help me out but I am so confused about her info.
Is she married and does she have kids? Because in one interview,
the interviewer said that she has no kids of her own to drawn the
experience of being a mom from (from a My live W/o Me interview) and
I am also reading articles posted on this newsgroup about her having
Can someone clarify that for me? I am a new Sarah fan (just
discovered her in Go) so I dunno too much about her. Thanks!
I'm so curious about that too!!
Please somebody tell us about her.
I can't believe she has been married for 3 years with Winterbottom,
and I have never seen her pregnant, no way, I can't believe it!
Sarah is not married, has never been married, and has no children.
All other reports are false.
And is it also false that she is expecting a child by Dawud Wharnsby-
Is he really her partner?? or she doesn't even know him?
why would be anybody interested in spreading that kind of rumours
about Sarah Polley?
Actually, Sarah IS married now (but not to director Michael
Winterbottom; her husband is David Wharnsby, a film editor). The
Toronto Star announced that she was engaged back in August; and then
in the Globe and Mail last month, around the time of the Toronto Film
Festival, a reporter noticed she was wearing a wedding ring during an
interview. As well, if you go to Photos/My Life Without Me/Premiere,
in one of the pictures, you can see a wedding band on her left ring
The part about the kids is not true.
I tend to think that posters make up articles at times because Sarah
news tends to get light, and often. It's a good thing you ask
questions, because then we can help you sort out the factual
information from the fictional stuff.
A little hint: The articles posted that are legitimate usually have a
link at the end of the message. (There are a few exceptions--stuff
from Salon.com being one of them, because it's a pay-site (you either
have to: 1) pay to subscribe to it; or 2) watch an advertisement and
get a day pass).)
'It's a Very Liberating Thing'
SARAH POLLEY: A motherless child comes full circle as a dying mom in
'My Life Without Me'
ALTHOUGH she's just 24, Sarah Polley is one of Canada's most seasoned
actors. Since emerging as a child star with The Adventures of Baron
Munchausen (1988) and TV's Road to Avonlea (1989), she's appeared in
more than 20 feature films. In her latest, My Life Without Me, she
gives a raw, luminous performance as a happily married blue-collar
mother of two -- who takes a lover (Mark Ruffalo) after learning she
has two months to live. Polley spoke to Maclean's writer Brian D.
Johnson last month at the Toronto International Film Festival.
Q: In My Life Without Me you play a dying mother. Was this a stretch?
A: It was the least of a stretch of anything I've done. My mom died of
cancer when I was 11. So I've seen somebody go through that. It was
such a privilege to try to understand what it was like for my mom, and
realize how much harder it would have been for her to leave a little
kid than it was for me to lose a mom. It's a very liberating thing to
dump some of your self-pity, and to be able to embrace that degree of
empathy. The biggest stretch was playing someone who had a mother as
an adult -- the relationship with Debbie Harry -- because I have no
reference point. I don't know what it feels like to have someone you
sort of resent, and have baggage with. I only have this idealized version.
Q: Somebody who has two months to live can be selfish. I don't know
what it was like for your mother, but she didn't get to have an affair
with Mark Ruffalo.
A: No, sadly. With this character, what's great is there's such a
degree of acceptance: as soon as she finds out she's going to die, she
doesn't fight it. There's no denial, so she's really able to embrace
dying in such a way that she's really living life.
Q: Every movie swallows up a big chunk of your life. How do you choose
A: I have a new criterion. At the beginning it was the script, then it
was the role. Now it has to be a filmmaker I'm willing to fail with. I
have to look into their eyes and feel that if this is the biggest
disaster ever made, I'm willing to go down with them. I have to feel
like it's OK if this is the last thing that I ever do. It's all such a
gamble, because you have no idea from a script. I've worked on films
where the script was shit, and the movie was great, and movies where
the script was amazing, and the movie was crap.
Q: The vast majority of filmmakers are male. You've worked with three
women -- Isabel Coixet (My Life Without Me), Kathryn Bigelow (The
Weight of Water) and Audrey Wells (Guinevere). Can you generalize
about working with female directors?
A: I would say the thing they have in common is their absolute
determination. I remember talking to Kathryn Bigelow about directing
as a woman, and she said, "You have to be like a dog with a bone,
because everyone will try to take it away from you." If a man is a bit
of a dick on set, he gets called difficult and temperamental, but he's
a genius. And women, you hear the words whore and bitch and c--- all
Q: You studied directing at the Canadian Film Centre, and made a short
film I Shout Love that was very well received. Are you planning to
direct a feature?
A: I'd really love to balance my life between writing and directing
and acting. I've written a feature that I want to shoot in the summer.
The basic premise is -- God, I haven't figured out a way to talk about
it yet -- it's about a 12-year-old girl on a kids' show set. It's not
autobiographical, but obviously the atmosphere comes from experience.
It's either a very black comedy or a drama.
Q: You've been exceptionally outspoken, almost dangerously so. Are you
escalating, or scaling back your political work?
A: I'm in a bit of a down period right now in terms of political
stuff, and it's not something that I'm very happy or proud of. I've
been so consumed with trying to learn about directing and writing and
acting at the same time. That's been my focus, and I feel that there's
this huge void. I feel ashamed of it, because I do think it's a
responsibility. It's not like something that is a fun thing to have in
your life. I just think it's your job as a person, and especially in
Ontario, where we've had a Conservative government that's destroyed so
much in so little time. I'm trying to figure out how to be useful,
basically, and I don't think I'm useful as a spokesperson. I don't
think I'm qualified.
Q: Do you think it's generally a bad idea for a star to serve as a
A: I don't think it's ever a bad idea for anyone to express an
opinion. I find it brave when an actor talks about an issue, and on
the flip side, I find it incredibly depressing that I'm not listening
to someone who's dedicated their life to fighting for this issue. So
it's a double-edged thing. I actually found Sean Penn's fact-finding
mission to Iraq, as innocent and naive as it was, really lovely and
inspiring -- that he got on a plane, went there, and did that, and
took out that ad in the Washington Post. I don't think anyone took him
seriously. I just think that on both sides of the spectrum, everyone
gets seduced by the idea of, "Oh, you're an actor, you can get media
attention, that's good." It's not always good. Sometimes it's laughable.
Q: Do your politics get you into any trouble in terms of your
employers, in your work? Do you burn any bridges?
A: It's funny. I grew up with a dad who's a conspiracy theorist, who
thinks that Hollywood is run by three guys in suits who at any point
will cut you. I went into talking about politics thinking that it
would be the end of my career -- and in some sense hoping for the
glamour of going down in flames. The truth is, they're not organized
enough. Nobody's talking to anybody. Nobody cares. I'm not enough of a
threat to anyone for it to have any real consequences.
Q: What's happening in your life these days?
A: I got married two weeks ago, actually.
Q: Congratulations. Who's the guy?
A: Oh, some guy [laughs]. He's not an actor. It's not anybody you
would know. I'll keep it quiet for as long as I can. I like the idea
of having it just for myself for a while.
Q: Do you want to be a mother?
A: Yeah, I do.
A: Probably, but I don't know.
Q: Do you weigh the timing of the decision against your career?
A: Yeah, although not too much. You realize it's never a smart time to
have kids. There's never a practical, rational time. At some point,
you decide to take the leap, so I don't know if that'll be this year
or next year or five years from now. I'm not going to wait for the
perfect time, because I don't think the perfect time is going to come.
New photo up in the Miscellaneous folder in the Photos section, taken
from the MacLean's site. :)
Congratulations Sarah! I have a feeling that you soon will be
entering into a sustained period of superior work as an actress and
as a filmmaker and help us all understand these new and confusing
times we inhabit. You have all my faith!
P.S. Has anyone told Billy yet??? LOL!
After being on the site for about four years, I'd have to say Shell
is right. There used to be a lot of info, and a lot of posts, but it
died down when Sarah took a sabbatical from acting and went off to
film school to hone her craft as an "auteur"/filmmaker. People used
to post silly or outrageous "articles" about Sarah being married by
Fidel Castro and the like, but now they tend to be more "straight-
faced," typically knock-offs of articles about celebrities making the
--- In firstname.lastname@example.org, maestroshelly98
> I tend to think that posters make up articles at times because Sarah
> news tends to get light, and often. It's a good thing you ask
> questions, because then we can help you sort out the factual
> information from the fictional stuff.
> A little hint: The articles posted that are legitimate usually have
> link at the end of the message. (There are a few exceptions--stuff
> from Salon.com being one of them, because it's a pay-site (you
> have to: 1) pay to subscribe to it; or 2) watch an advertisement and
> get a day pass).)
Thanks to all who clarified Sarah's info. It was pretty interesting
how weird the articles got, like the one about The Godfather and
especially as a new fan, I was ready to believe some of the weird
So Sarah actually took a year off and studied filmmaking? Do you
guys know how long she studied at the school and when she
graduated? I am very behind in all things Sarah so now I am just
trying to piece together things after the movie Go.
She was at the Canadian Film Centre in the summer of 2000. Shortly
after her time there, she made 'I Shout Love', and won a Genie for it
earlier this year.
--- In email@example.com, "phattymimi"
> Thanks to all who clarified Sarah's info. It was pretty interesting
> how weird the articles got, like the one about The Godfather and
> especially as a new fan, I was ready to believe some of the weird
> So Sarah actually took a year off and studied filmmaking? Do you
> guys know how long she studied at the school and when she
> graduated? I am very behind in all things Sarah so now I am just
> trying to piece together things after the movie Go.
PLAIN JANE POLLEY
SARAH POLLEY THINKS SHE HAS NO CHARISMA
BY CAMERON BAILEY
MY LIFE WITHOUT ME directed by Isabel Coixet, written by Coixet from a
story by Nanci Kincaid, produced by Esther Garcνa and Gordon McLennan,
with Sarah Polley, Mark Ruffalo, Scott Speedman, Deborah Harry, Amanda
Plummer, Maria de Medeiros and Alfred Molina. A Mongrel Media release.
106 minutes. Opens Friday (October 10). For review, venues and times,
see First-Run Movies, page 76. Rating: NNN
At only 24 years old, sarah polley has a husband, a property tax bill
and a role most actresses put off till there's no other choice
mother. "I've always been a bit domestic," she admits.
In My Life Without Me she plays a trailer park mom facing death.
Instead of unloading on her family, she sets out to create the perfect
"It's this nice marriage of two cultures," Polley says. "It's a
Canadian story set in a Canadian city but made by a Spanish director,
so there's a fantastical element to it. It's got a romantic feel that
maybe another director wouldn't see."
Tucked up in a chair during the Toronto International Film Festival,
she lets the words race out of her.
Director Isabel Coixet, she says, is "just brilliant. She shoots all
her own stuff. It's totally inspiring to watch this woman, who's got a
camera on her shoulder at all times, directing in three languages."
She gives two tight little sneezes, says "Fuck!" and continues.
"It reminds me of Atom (Egoyan) a bit. She gives you total freedom,
but will rein you in when you need to be."
When Polley was 11, her own mother died from cancer.
"Because I've experienced this story from the child's point of view,"
she says, "being able to experience it from the mother's point of view
was a great thing for me. It throws the self-pitying part of your
grief in a tailspin."
Polley talks like this emotional, but shorn of sentiment. She's
acutely aware that feeling is her stock-in-trade.
When she took two years off to study directing at the Canadian Film
Centre, she realized she'd lost her purge valve.
"Because I've done this since I was a little kid, there's a whole
reserve of emotion that needs to burst out," she says. "I'm not
comfortable doing that except on screen. That's pretty perverted and
fucked up. On some subconscious level" she laughs here "I was
saving up a certain amount of pain for work."
Polley has the skill and looks to be a movie star, but seems like
Johnny Depp in the 90s to defy stardom every chance she gets.
"I don't think I have charisma," she protests, then rushes to head me
off. "No, that's not being self-deprecating. There's a certain quality
you need to be a movie star. It's what I want in a movie star if I'm
watching Entertainment Tonight. I want someone who has a lot of
charisma and looks fabulous, who loves being in front of people.
"I don't love being in front of a whole bunch of people I don't know,
and my strengths as an actor come from the fact that I'm quite
introspective on screen.
"For certain scenes in a movie, you need someone who comes in and
lights up a room. I'm much better in situations when the camera or the
audience comes to me and I don't have to go to them, because I'm not
capable of entertaining in quite that way.
"And in terms of being a big star, your life becomes so incredibly
small and narrow. I don't want to start having to protect myself from
So it's the salt mines of indie cinema, then.
"Four months ago I would have said I only want to do movies that are
under $4 million," she says. "But I did Dawn Of The Dead this summer."
Her eyes get huge. "And it was so much fun! Now I feel conflicted.
Every five years I would love to do a movie like that.
"I expect when I go to work for it to take years off my life,
emotionally," she admits. "To run around with a shotgun shooting
zombies was just a great way to spend the summer."
Sarah Polley is an actress and director renowned in her native Canada
for her political activism. Blessed with an extremely expressive face
that enables directors to minimize dialogue due to her uncanny
ability to suggest a character's thoughts, Polley has become a
favorite of critics for her sensitive portraits of wounded and
conflicted young women in independent films.
Polley was born into a showbusiness family: her father, Michael
appeared with her in the movie "The Adventures of Baron Munchausen"
and on the television series ''Road to Avonlea,'' and her mother,
Dianne, was an actress and casting director. It was her mother's
connections that launched Sarah, at her own insistence, on an acting
career at the age of four, following in the footsteps of her older
brother Mark (a second brother, John Buchan, is a casting director
Her career as a child actress shifted into high gear when she was
cast as the Cockney waif Jody Turner in ''Lantern Hill,'' (1991) for
which she won a Gemini Award, the Canadian equivalent of the Emmy, in
1992. Produced by Kevin Sullivan, the film was based on the book by
Lucy Maud Montgomery, author of "Anne of the Green Gables.'' When
Sullivan created a television series based on Montgomery's work, he
cast Polley in the lead role of Sara Stanley in 'Road to Avonlea''.
The series propelled Polley into the first rank of Canadian TV stars
and made her independently wealthy by the age of 14.
Polley's personal life was deeply affected by the death of her mother
Diane from cancer shortly after her 11th birthday, a development that
ironically paralleled the fictional life of her character Sara.
Highly intelligent and politically progressive at a young age, Polley
eventually rebelled against what she felt was the Americanization of
the series after it was picked up by the Disney Channel for
distribution in the U.S. She eventually dropped out of the show.
Though Polley does not blame her parents, she remains publicly
disenchanted over the loss of her childhood and in October 2003 said
she is working on a script about a 12-year old girl on a TV show.
Polley, who picked up a second Gemini Award for her performance in
the TV series ''Straight Up'', subsequently quit acting and high
school to turn her attention to politics, positioning herself on the
extreme left of Canada's left-of-center New Democratic Party. The
publicity ensuing from her losing some teeth after being slugged by
an Ontario policeman during a protest against the Conservative
provincial government, plus the stinging cynicism from some other
activists unimpressed by her "celebrity," led Polley to temporarily
lower her political profile and return to acting in Atom Egoyan's
film ''The Sweet Hereafter" (1997).
It was her appearance as Nicole, the teenage girl injured in a school
bus accident who serves as the conscience of the small town rent by
the tragedy, that first brought Polley to the attention of critics in
the U.S. In Canada the role was heralded by critics as her successful
breakthrough to adult roles. It was Polley's second film with Egoyan,
who wrote the part with her in mind when he adapted Russell Banks'
novel. Predictions of an Academy Award nomination and future stardom
were part of the critical consensus, and Polley received her first
Best Actress Genie nomination from Canada's Academy of Canadian
Cinema & Television and the Best Supporting Actress award from the
Boston Society of Film Critics. The buzz crested at the Sundance
Festival, where her starring role in the film ''Guinevere'' (1999)
was showcased, when the entertainment media crowned her the "It Girl"
Intensely private, and extremely ambivalent about the personal cost
of celebrity and the Hollywood ethos "Fame is the Name of the Game,"
Polley could be seen as rebelling against the expectations of
mainstream cinema when she embarked on a career path that took her
out of the spotlight thrown by the harsh lights of the Hollywood
hype/publicity machine after shooting the film "Go" (1999). Polley
dropped out of Cameron Crowe's ''Almost Famous,'' the $60-million
mega-hyped vehicle that was supposed to make her a mainstream star in
the U.S., choosing to return to Canada to make the $1.5 million ''The
Law of Enclosures'' (2001) for Genie Award-winner John Greyson, a
director she greatly admires. The film grossed poorly in Canada and
was not released in the U.S., but it did garner Polley her second
Genie nomination for Best Actress. While her replacement in ''Almost
Famous'' went on to an Oscar nomination and a career above the title
in glossy Hollywood films, Polley took a wide variety of parts, large
and small, in independent films, including significant roles in the
ensemble pieces ''The Claim'' (2000) and ''The Weight of Water''
(2000), bit parts in ''eXistenZ''(1999) and ''Love Come Down''
(2000), and the lead in ''No Such Thing'' (2001). Her choice of
projects showed her to be a questing spirit more focused on learning
the art of her craft than on stardom.
Polley has said that her choice of film roles, eschewing mainstream
Hollywood movies for chancier, non-commercial independent fare, was
the result of an ethical decision on her part to make films with
social import. A less observant viewer might think that the rebel
Polley played in her political life and that had previously
manifested itself in her profession was now driving her to the verge
of career suicide in terms of popularity, marketability and choice of
future roles. However, that interpretation does not recognize the
extraordinary talent that will always keep her in demand by
directors, if not casting agents with an eye on the opening weekend
box office. One must understand Polley's career progression in light
of her attendance at the Canadian Film Centre's directors program and
her production of short films, including "Don't Think Twice" (1999)
and the highly praised "I Shout Love" (2001). Polley is a cinema
artist. This woman wants to, and will make films. Thus, we can
understand her career choices as a desire to work with and understand
the technique of some of the best directors in film, including David
Cronenberg, Michael Winterbottom and Hal Hartley.
Polley is as renowned for her intelligence as for her remarkable
talent. The problem of the intelligent person in the acting field is
that the actor, as artist, in not ultimately in control of their
medium, and it is artistic control that is the hallmark of the great
artist. The controlling intelligence on a movie set is the director,
and her attendance at the Canadian Film Centre has given Polley a new
perspective on acting. The actor, she says, should not try to give a
complete performance for the camera (that is, control the
representation on film) but must remember that the function of the
actor is to give the director as much coverage as possible as a film,
as well as a performance, is made in the editing room. According to
Polley, this realization, that the film actor exists to serve the
director, has given her new enthusiasm for acting. Thus, her career,
and her career choices, can be seen as a quest for knowledge about
the art of cinema, a journey whose fruition we will see in her future
feature work as both actor and director.
Go Hop! I hope it makes it there. :D
--- In firstname.lastname@example.org, maestroshelly98
> Go Hop! I hope it makes it there. :D
Sarah's listed as an upcoming guest on the National Public Radio (NPR)
show 'Fresh Air.'
I don't know what day she'll be on; the site doesn't say. I'm hoping
Friday b/c I'll be home then to tape it off the radio. (It's on in my
neck of the woods weeknights at 7 pm.) So check your local NPR
affiliate for dates and times; or you can listen online when the time
For the Canadian fans, Sarah's going to be on the CBC program ZeD
tomorrow night. It comes on at 11:25 pm local time, 11:55 pm in
My Life Without Me
Sarah Polley's radiant calm sooths the heart of this 'Life'
By Ty Burr, Globe Staff
The Canadian actress Sarah Polley could pass for Uma Thurman's indie-
film twin. She has the same street-lamp eyes, the same lanky grace,
but she wears dowdiness like a badge of integrity. From some camera
angles Polley is almost ugly, from others she's breathtakingly
lovely, and her star quality comes from the sense that she doesn't
seem to care either way. In 1997's ''The Sweet Hereafter,'' she used
her shyness and flat voice to become the conscience of a grief-
stricken town. In ''My Life Without Me,'' the grief is for her own
imminent death, and she clasps it tightly to herself before letting
others share it.
Isabel Coixet's film is a whimsical drama about terminal cancer, and
if that notion sets your teeth on edge, well, so do parts of the
movie. ''My Life'' asks an audience to accept that a woman could be
informed she has two months to live and then withhold that
information from her husband, mother, and two young daughters.
Instead, Ann (Polley) sits down and makes a list of ''Things To Do
Before I Die,'' which include taping farewell messages, finding a
suitable replacement for her survivors, and sleeping with another
''I don't want the only thing my daughters remember to be me in a
hospital,'' Ann says, but coursing underneath that rationale is a
hunger for all the experiences she'll never have -- for experience
itself. There's a selfishness there that ''My Life Without Me'' would
do well to explore, but Coixet insists on her heroine's serene
nobility, even when she's acting perversely.
The movie sands the edges off realism until it becomes a charmed
universe in which supermarket shoppers break into dance routines and
minor characters have empathetic flashbacks. Ann lives in a trailer
home, but it's the biggest, most marvelous trailer home imaginable,
and her handsome blue-collar husband, Don, (Scott Speedman) and
gorgeous daughters, (Jessica Amlee and Kenya Jo Kennedy), are never,
ever cranky. Her cynical bakery-worker mom is played by Blondie's
Deborah Harry, and the adulterous affair, when it comes, is in the
form of a lonely, magnetic Mark Ruffalo (the screwed-up hunk of ''You
Can Count on Me'').
The result is a weird hybrid of European art-film and indie rawness --
director Coixet and producer Pedro Almodovar are Spanish, but the
film was shot in British Columbia -- and it overlays dismal acting-
class monologues with some of the loveliest Brazilian music you'll
ever hear (not to mention many and strange versions of the Beach
Boys' ''God Only Knows'').
When it works, ''My Life Without Me'' casts a wrenching glow. Coixet
handles silence much better than she does dialogue, and for every dud
scene like the one in which an eccentric hairdresser (Maria de
Medeiros) natters on about her Milli Vanilli obsession, there are
brief, transfixing moments of contemplation. For once, Polley has a
role that forces her up against the limits of her naturalism -- the
provincialism that has always set her apart is here both blessing and
curse -- but her radiant calm serves her well. All she has to do is
widen her eyes to suggest the panic that's never not there.
''My Life Without Me'' is a young person's movie about death, the
sort of adolescent daydream in which you imagine your own demise. It
has a naive, heartfelt selfishness that may offend some viewers, and
a resolve that others will find intensely soothing. ''Dying's not as
easy as it looks,'' cautions Ann's doctor (Julian Richings), but here
it's as easy as a movie can make it.
From the September 29 issue of Playback Magazine (www.playbackmag.com)
* * * * *
Original adapts with Shaftesbury
Before there was CSI there was The Murdoch Mysteries, a book series
penned by Canadian writer Maureen Jennings about Detective William
Murdoch, who shocked his peers with wacky new crime-solving techniques
- like dusting for fingerprints. Murdoch's exploits in Victorian
Toronto are being brought to the small screen for CHUM Television/
Bravo! by way of two MOWs from Winnipeg's Original Pictures and
Toronto's Shaftesbury Films.
Except the Dying and Poor Tom is Cold began shooting back-to-back in
Winnipeg in early September under director Michael DeCarlo (Hemingway
Peter Outerbridge (Trudeau) stars as Murdoch alongside Colm Meaney
(Random Passage), Keeley Hawes (A is for Acid) and William B. Davis
According to Original president/executive producer Kim Todd, who
"loves working with mysteries," using modern-day Winnipeg to recreate
1890s Toronto isn't as much of a stretch as one might think.
"Winnipeg has lots of very old buildings and whole blocks of old
'downtown' areas," she says. "But the films have a very contemporary
feel, and with Michael DeCarlo directing, we wanted to make that
combination - all of the interest in the period with a feeling of a
contemporary story in its pacing and intrigue."
Todd is producing with Shaftesbury's Christina Jennings and co-exec
producing with Jennings and Shaftesbury's Scott Garvie. Writer Janet
MacLean (Road to Avonlea) adapted Except the Dying solo, and worked
with Jean Greig and Cal Coons on Poor Tom.
The combined budget for the two films is under $7 million, says Todd,
with funding from Telefilm Canada, CTF's LFP and EIP, Manitoba Film &
Sound, Cogeco, CHUM and tax credits. The Shaftesbury Sales Company is
handling foreign sales.
Todd hopes the films will be received warmly so that others may follow.
When shooting on The Murdoch Mysteries wraps Oct. 18, Todd says she
will enjoy just 24 hours of rest before jumping into preproduction on
another Original/Shaftesbury copro, The Shields Stories, a 6 x 30
anthology series for W based on stories by late Canadian author Carol
Sarah Polley (Go), Lori Spring (The Atwood Stories) and Norma Bailey
(The Sheldon Kennedy Story) have signed on to direct episodes, with
Polley and Spring also penning their episodes. Spring will write a
second episode and serve as story editor for all six. Writers David
Young (Mutant X), Dennis Foon (Scar Tissue) and Esta Spalding
(Republic of Love) are also signed. Todd and Harbin will produce,
while Todd, Jennings and Garvie exec produce.
The series is budgeted at under $4 million, with funding from W, CTF
(both sides), the CanWest Western Independent Production Fund, Rogers
Telefund, MFS and tax credits. Shaftesbury is distributing.
Todd hopes to have the series wrapped by Christmas Eve.
It's not related to Sarah Polley, so excuse me please,it has to do
with Canada. I saw the documentary ''Bowling for columbine'' the
other day, and I was wondering: is it true that canadians don't lock
the door of their houses?? I can't believe it. Are any canadians
here? can you tell me if it is true?
Ignore the message. It's spam.
--- In email@example.com, "moderstwo"
> I cant' see the pictures :-(
> --- In firstname.lastname@example.org, "fuchs6pg9"
> <fuchs6pg9@y...> wrote:
> > http://www.geocities.com/Communicationiljw/index.html
Paradoxes of a beautiful life
At four, Sarah Polley began her career as a child star, at 11 tragedy
struck, at 14 she left home, and by 19 she was firmly embedded in
Toronto's radical politics. It is a life, she tells Craig Taylor,
that has made her a reluctant conscript to Hollywood, but it has also
given a powerful quality to the unusual roles she plays
Saturday October 25, 2003
She may only be 24, but bringing pain to the surface of her roles is
There's a small coffee stain on the tabletop in the restaurant where
I am to meet Sarah Polley. Surprising, because Toronto, Polley's
hometown, prides itself on being prodigiously, almost maniacally
tidy, so tabletops tend to be spotless if not lickable. Caught in
this particular stain is a fly that has landed amid the stickiness.
Its back legs won't move, and when it tries desperately to right
itself, it loses the struggle and tips over. Its wings crinkle; its
proboscis presses frantically against the table. The fly looks
doomed, which, thematically at least, suits the occasion.
Polley is here to talk about death, and about what it's like to play
a young mother who is given the news that she has only three months
to live, truly live, and test the boundaries of her unmemorable
existence before terminal cancer catches up with her. The film, My
Life Without Me, is the latest in a series of smaller, well-
assembled, thoughtful, independent movies in which Polley has chosen
to appear. Already, she is a veteran of films in which terrible
things happen to vulnerable people, and it's her characters that bear
Polley survives a bus crash in Atom Egoyan's The Sweet Hereafter
(1997), a plane crash and a confrontation with a fire-breathing
monster in Hal Hartley's No Such Thing (2001), a father's abandonment
in Michael Winterbottom's The Claim (2000) and, perhaps most
frighteningly, an affair with an older man in Guinevere (1999). In
Go, director Doug Liman's 1999 follow-up to his hit Swingers, Polley
escapes from a drug deal gone awry but is still hit by a car and
deposited in a ditch. In My Life Without Me, the dangers are within.
Ann, a young mother of two who lives in a trailer in her mother's
backyard and works as a janitor at the local university, sits down
with her doctor to talk about what she worries is another pregnancy.
Instead, she's told she has ovarian cancer which has spread, become
inoperable, and will soon kill her. The scene is quietly devastating -
an example of Polley doing what she has perfected in her other
roles, with the expressive face, the big eyes, taking in the prospect
of unmentionable suffering. Polley's talent is coming up with new and
unexpected ways of expressing this kind of pain.
If the conversation is to be about death, the afternoon is not half
as morbid as it should be. Summer and relentless sun have extended
into October, and for a city recently plagued by disease and
disaster - Sars, West Nile virus, blackouts - Toronto feels
rejuvenated. Even the fly in the coffee stain has unlodged itself,
bent wing and all, and flown off. When Polley arrives, she is looking
as summery as the city. She is very small, smiling, with dishevelled
hair and an air of resilience. I ask her why she has played so many
victims. "I'm interested in internalising pain," she says, "but I
don't want to think that's what I'll always do. I like to think I'll
be able to play different kinds of characters that aren't so ... "
she searches for a word " ... repressed in some way." As proof, she's
just finished filming the remake of the horror classic Dawn Of The
Polley is the youngest of five children, born into an entertainment
family. Her father, Michael, was an actor and her mother, Diane,
worked as a casting agent. Scripts were always lying around the house
and Polley learned to read at a young age. Her brother Mark made
television appearances and she was soon asking her parents if she
could do the same. Although they professed an interest in giving
Polley a "normal" childhood, she made her feature film debut at the
age of four, in a Disney production called One Magic Christmas. More
roles followed, including a tough slog through Terry Gilliam's The
Adventures Of Baron Munchausen when she was seven.
In 1990, Polley began her six-year stint in Road To Avonlea, a
chirpy, feel-good historical television series based on a story by
Lucy Maud Montgomery and aimed at the Anne Of Green Gables following.
It was, according to Polley, "the most sugar-coated, unrealistic
depiction of Canadian history ever. It was like the white man's
fantasy of what it was like at the turn of the century on Prince
Edward Island." Polley's character, Sara Stanley, was a cute do-
gooder, hermetically sealed away in a past era. Polley herself was
having a more painful time, undergoing surgery to correct a spinal
problem brought on by scoliosis. Avonlea became a huge success and a
childhood ritual for millions of viewers. "You know a good way of
describing how big it was for people who don't live here?" she
says. "The ratings were even higher than Hockey Night In Canada."
Because it was so popular, Polley saw Road To Avonlea as an
opportunity to deal with what she considered to be real issues, such
as the history of immigration in Canada and the treatment of native
people. That was, until a certain multinational began financing the
show. "In the first couple of seasons we did things like an episode
on a strike," she says. "Then as soon as the Disney Channel got
really involved, all that went away and it became, literally, a show
about family values." Even at 12, it wasn't hard to see how much the
tone of the series had shifted. Polley wasn't particularly
politicised then, but the Disneyfication marked the beginning of her
awareness. In 1991, circa the first Gulf War, she attended an awards
ceremony for children's television in Washington and supplemented her
outfit with a peace symbol. Disney officials at her table asked her
to remove it. Polley refused. Disney, she says, never asked her to do
While child stars like Drew Barrymore plunged into drug addiction and
alcohol abuse, Polley went for political activism. She moved out of
her home when she was 14, set up on her own - she had the income to
do it - and dropped out of school. Her father was accepting of her
independence, so he said in 1997, feeling "she was at her best when
she was out of kilter with society in some way". Politics mattered,
and Polley surrounded herself with activists she could learn from.
She got involved with local campaigns, including the Ontario
Coalition Against Poverty and Toronto Health Coalition, and famously
tussled with police in one protest, resulting in a few blows to the
face. She organised a concert to raise awareness of a local cancer-
care clinic, but her figurehead status made her uneasy.
At one point, the province's health minister, Tony Clement,
challenged Polley to a debate on healthcare. "I just thought, what a
fucking stupid thing. Every Canadian network was calling because they
wanted to televise the debate. Here was the health minister, with all
the resources of the government behind him, and me, a concerned
citizen who cares about healthcare. Who do you think is going to
win?" Instead, she put forward five health professionals, people who
could challenge Clement publicly. There was no response. "They wanted
the freakshow. The saddest thing was that I had all these doctors and
radiologists saying, 'Go. You have to do it.' To have a health
minister who will debate an actor but not a healthcare professional?
I don't want to participate in that. I think it's gross."
Instead of returning to television after Avonlea, Polley began to
work in the world of independent film, where Disney family values
were thankfully absent. When the director Atom Egoyan needed to round
out the cast of Exotica, a film about strip clubs, grief and denial,
he chose Polley to play a young babysitter. She saw it as a clever
reference to her Avonlea innocence. "He cast this person who was so
supposed to be the sugary sweet pure thing in a role where, at the
beginning of the movie, it's ambiguous as to whether or not I might
be a prostitute," she says. "That's the sort of stupid fluke on which
my career was based."
Her role in Exotica led Egoyan to cast her again in what came to be
Polley's most nuanced performance to date. The Sweet Hereafter's
central tragedy comes when a school bus crashes into a frozen lake,
killing 14 children from a nearby small town. A big-city lawyer,
played by Ian Holm, appears to build interest in a class-action
lawsuit and during his interviews with the grieving parents the more
disturbing elements of the town begin to emerge, including adultery
and Polley's character's incestuous relationship with her father. The
story hinges on her performance as a survivor, and Polley is focused
and compassionate, believable even when she's lying, and miles away
This is when Polley is at her strongest - odd, tender, moments of
vulnerability. In My Life Without Me, she doesn't play a survivor.
The scenario is bleak but the film never approaches death straight
on; it nudges up against it. It's a warning to live each day. The
highly practical Ann decides not to tell anyone about her cancer and
instead makes a list of things to do before she dies. It includes
finding a new wife for her husband, the first man she ever kissed,
played by Scott Speedman. It includes smoking and drinking, being
better to her mother (Blondie's Debbie Harry in a remarkably
Her decision to "sleep with another man, just to see what it's like"
leads her to an encounter with the shambling, poetic Lee, played with
charm by Mark Ruffalo. She also decides to record a series of audio
tapes for her daughters to listen to on each birthday until they
reach 18, so they'll be able to construct an image of who their young
mother was and remember the tones of her voice. In the film's best
scene, Polley sits alone in a car trying to speak clearly into her
tape recorder. "Now you're five," she says, before kissing the
microphone. A few tapes later she says to her other daughter: "If you
get a new mum, try and love her, OK?"
For years now, Polley has been engaged in the same process her
fictional daughters will have to go through - piecing together the
identity of an absent parent. When her mother, Diane, died of cancer,
Polley was 11 - old enough to have gathered memories of who her
mother was as a parent, but not as a person. "What my character does
with those audio tapes is what makes this movie useful in a practical
way," she says. "Anyone who lost a parent young fantasises about
having something like that."
There are reminders of her own mother out there, including footage of
her in a small role on a Canadian television series about lawyers.
Otherwise, it's a process of gathering remembrances and layering
them. "The good thing is that it's done without the complications of
actually having a parent who's bugging you at the same time," she
says. "I'll run into someone who will say, 'I knew your mom' and I'll
be able to drill them about her. From the two sentences they tell me,
I'll get a completely new part of her that I can tag on to this thing
I'm building all the time."
Polley was still working on Road To Avonlea at the time of her
mother's death and has said before that she didn't get to experience
a "standard grief". At the memorial service, she scampered about
playing practical jokes. "I remember everyone humouring me and being
aware that they were going along with something they didn't think was
natural," she says. "You'd hear people saying things like, 'You're
taking this too well.' Everyone's used to a little girl crying at her
mother's funeral. I'm sure it happens a lot of the time but it
doesn't happen every time.
There's a certain expectation placed on people. And the reason is
because they're sure there is this specific way people are supposed
to react in situations. Movies contribute to this feeling because
there's a particular way to react to death that happens in movies. It
makes for a good trailer, it makes a good Academy Award nomination
clip and it acts as a good kind of catharsis, but it's not really
representative of the way everyone behaves under duress."
Our notions of grief and the acceptance of death have been tainted,
slowly but constantly, Polley says, by the histrionics of death on
screen. The death scene is such an entertainment staple that it comes
with its own rhythm of gesticulation - clutched hands, tearful
goodbyes, glazed eyes, defiant final breaths, a few subsequent howls
of grief. We can't all go out big; we can't all go out like Love
Story, but rarely does anyone on screen go out with quiet acceptance.
Polley's choices in each film so far have been marked by a tendency
to forgo the obvious emotion. A tearjerker without the big tearjerk
is an odd proposition, but it can work; at least, Polley seems to
think so. "We know all those people cried their guts out," she
says. "Why is it necessary to see it? We know that those little kids
were devastated and shattered when their mother died. It's much more
powerful to assume certain things. It is more interesting watching
people in their quiet moments."
When Polley was interviewed by the Japanese press, no one questioned
the reserved way Ann receives the news of her impending death and her
decision not to tell anyone. "I actually started asking journalists
about it and they said it was a cultural thing. There, it's a quieter
way to live a life." It's reminiscent of a passage in Will The Circle
Be Unbroken?, a book on death by oral historian Studs Terkel, who
interviews a survivor of Hiroshima on the quietness of
grief. "Calling out with one's discomfort - that was frowned upon. So
you persevere, and virtue is to try to cope with whatever comes
along. You're not supposed to cry out with pain. Some people who just
couldn't help it would say something, but for the most part people
were very silent."
Ann's silence on the subject is what makes the film a satisfying
aberration for some and frustrating for others. After learning of her
illness, Ann goes out to fulfil her life the way she wants to, and
it's this decision that has brought criticism from (mostly male)
American film reviewers. To the New York Times, it "seemed cruel and
more than a bit passive-aggressive". Charles Taylor, in Salon,
writes: " ... instead of being about a woman who wants to fade
gracefully away from the people she loves ... the film becomes about
someone who is egocentric enough to ensure that they never forget
her". "Ask yourself how you would feel if you discovered your
significant other was dying and decided not to tell you?" demands a
reviewer at FilmJerk.com. "And why doesn't some form of religious
faith cross her mind?" asks the Christian Science Monitor.
The thing about terminal illness is no one knows what they'll do till
they get the news, and Ann, being practical, does what she has to -
and, playing her, Polley avoids melodrama.
It's this talent that brings Polley attention. She doesn't court it,
but she's not as viciously opposed to it as she once was. Until
recently, Polley used interviews to unleash a litany of hatred on the
world of celebrity. One Canadian newspaper's entertainment writers
were "bottom-feeders". The Oscars: "ludicrous". Posing for Vanity
Fair: "gross". Hollywood: "I hate it." Fame: "so thin". Still, it was
impossible to disentangle completely from the Hollywood machine. For
a few years, Polley was poised to be crowned with that nebulous
laurel, The Next Big Thing. When it didn't happen one year, she was
set to be The Next Big Thing the next, then the year after that.
"Capital-S stardom seems imminent," wrote Chatelaine magazine in
1998. "Sarah Polley is on the verge," wrote Saturday Night magazine
in 1999. Polley was "Hot Actress" in Rolling Stone's summer Hot issue
later that year and then there was the Vanity Fair cover on which she
posed with 14 other up-and-comers. Now it's clear that Polley will
never be The Next Big Thing, but she has taken her place among young
actors such as Scarlet Johansson, Thora Birch and Julia Stiles, who
are each capturing aspects of disaffected, awkward young womanhood.
None has portrayed pain as well as Polley, especially the
internalised hurt that surfaces in My Life Without Me and The Sweet
Hereafter. But this might come from life experience.
At 24, her politics remain the same, but she is less dogmatic and
less ready to join up to causes than she once was. Her love life -
formerly a series of "life-sucking nightmares" - has settled since
she got married last month to a fellow worker in film, and she has
recently come to the conclusion that the job of acting might not be
as bad as she thought. Her prickly self-awareness helped her through
the time when she could have ended up a forgotten ex-child star.
"I look at myself when I was 17, 18 and I'm amazed at how together I
was. I already feel far away from that. As you get older, it gets
harder to make those kinds of statements and to be so committed to
what you believe in. You start to realise there are consequences to
it. It's very easy when you're 17 and 18 to say, 'No, I'm not going
to do this, I'm staying here in Canada, I'm not wearing designer
clothes, I'm not having my make-up and hair done.' You have nothing
to lose. It takes a few years until you realise this is limiting in a
certain way. But I'm constantly making the decision. No one's immune
to those kinds of pressures. It's something you have to struggle with
constantly and fight yourself on. But living a perfectly comfortable
life and doing movies you want to do - how can you feel bad about
What if some day her old dream of anonymity in a northern country
came true? What if there were no more films? "At any other point in
my life I would have said, 'Fine, that would be great.' I'd like to
think that's the case. The truth is I have no idea. I have a lot of
people know who I was from the age of 10. Who the fuck knows how I'd
react? Maybe it would be a disaster."
The afternoon wears on and the conversation turns to death again.
Polley once said that in her mother's death she found "a kind of
hope", and in some way this film, too, casts death as a guideline for
living. "It takes terrible things to live well," she says. "One
tragedy isn't enough. It'll last us maybe a few months or years but
we have to be reminded." Most of the people close to her have
experienced some sort of painful event. "I find it hard to relate to
people who haven't. There's something less vivid about them. I see
these people with both parents alive and think, 'There's so much pain
waiting for you.' I'm so afraid for them because everything is
waiting. It's not like there's going to be anything familiar about
that pain." And for those who have experienced it? "It ends up being
a great thing. You live in a more beautiful way."
· My Life Without Me is released on November 14
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