Girls on Film #2: Sarah Polley
Though she's been acting since she was but a wee lass, I've never really thought of Sarah Polley as a "child." After a small role in The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, she had a regular role on the Canadian television program Road to Avonlea, but it was her role, as Bruce Greenwood's niece and "baby-sitter" in Exotica, that garnered my attention. Though excellent in her small scenes, her relationship with Atom Egoyan would truly blossom in The Sweet Hereafter, where Polley heartbreakingly plays the eldest survivor of a bus accident in Egoyan's adaptation of Russell Banks' novel of the same name. It's from the first time I ever saw a still from the film in my Entertainment Weekly that I fell in love with her.
My crush would only grow with time, as she opted for more challenging work than might have been expected of a starlet with her promise. Polley has built a career around working with interesting directors from Michael Winterbottom (The Claim) to Hal Hartley (No Such Thing) to Wim Wenders (Don't Come Knocking) to David Cronenberg (eXistenZ). Even her Hollywood turns were a lot more special than they needed to be, with Doug Liman's Go and the remake of Dawn of the Dead. In 2006, she directed her first feature, Away from Her, with Julie Christie, whom she acted opposite in both No Such Thing and The Secret Life of Words. The film has gotten probably the strongest acclaim of any other film this year, and I can't wait to see it. Polley, similarly to Isabelle Huppert, always (even at a young age) appeared as a fully developed woman, wise beyond her years, yet with a humbleness and envious curiosity.
See: The Secret Life of Words - dir. Isabel Coixet - 2005 - Spain, Dawn of the Dead - dir. Zack Snyder - 2004 - USA, My Life Without Me - dir. Isabel Coixet - 2003 - Spain, The Claim - dir. Michael Winterbottom - 2000 - UK/Canada/France, Go - dir. Doug Liman - 1999 - USA, Last Night - dir. Don McKellar - 1998 - Canada, The Sweet Hereafter - dir. Atom Egoyan - 1997 - Canada, or Exotica - dir. Atom Egoyan - 1994 - Canada
Filmography (Other, Notable): Beowulf & Grendel (2005), Don't Come Knocking (2005), The Event (2003), The Weight of Water (2000), The Life Before This (1999), eXistenZ (1999) Guinevere (1999), White Lies (1998), The Hanging Garden (1997), The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988)