Canadian actor/director Sarah Polley struck gold last night at the Genies, taking home 7 awards for her directorial debut Away From Her. She won for best picture, best director, and best screenplay, which she adapted from an Alice Munro short story about a couple coping with the wife's Alzheimer's.
Polley, only 29 years old, was Canadianly humble in her acceptance speech for best director: "The ridiculousness of me winning in this category is not lost on me. This is totally absurd."
Her stars, Gordon Pinsett and Julie Christie as the aging couple, took home the top acting awards. The film itself is more the husband's story than the wife's, though in the first half, Fiona is still cognizant enough often enough to understand what's happening to her. The strength of will that it takes her to decide it's time for her to enter a care facility is doubled when she turns down Grant's appeal "Don't go," as they pull up to the building, then writes him a note when he lingers: "Go now. I love you. Go now."
For a first film, there are some brave choices, including a broken timeline for the first half the film, presumably to evoke the jigsaw mind of someone entering the early stages of Alzheimers. There are many beautiful moments in the film, taking advantage of the Canadian landscape, but my favourite moment is indoors: one of the patients, a former play-by-play announcer, walking through the hall, dictates Gordon Pinsett's weeping heartbreak by the elevator.
Polley's been busy with acting roles (including Abigail Adams in USA network's John Adams miniseries airing later this month), but it's reasonable to assume these awards will give her the confidence and clout to move forward with another directing project. She'll have a lot more eyes following her for this one.