MY LIFE WITHOUT ME directed by Isabel Coixet, written by Coixet from a story by Nanci Kincaid, produced by Esther García 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 31). For review, venues and times, see First-Run Movies, page 112. 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. 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 final weeks.
Tucked up in a chair during the Toronto International Film Festival, she says director Isabel Coixet reminds her a bit of Atom Egoyan.
"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 was a great thing for me. It throws the self-pitying part of your grief into a tailspin."
Polley talks like this - emotional, but shorn of sentiment. She's acutely aware that feeling is her stock in trade.
She 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. "There's a certain quality you need to be a movie star. It's what I want in a movie star. I want someone who has a lot of charisma and who loves being in front of people. But my strength as an actor is that I'm quite introspective onscreen.
"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.
"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 the world."
So it's the salt mines of indie cinema, then.
"Four months ago I'd have said I only want to do movies that cost under $4 million," she says. "But then I did Dawn Of The Dead." Her eyes get huge. "And it was so much fun! Now I feel conflicted. Every five years I'd love to do a movie like that. Running around with a shotgun shooting zombies was a great way to spend the summer."