Like Lynne Ramsay, Sarah Polley has only directed three feature-length movies, and like Lynne Ramsay each one has been immensely brilliant. Polley, a Canadian treasure, started out as an actress and has worked for some of the best Canadian directors including Atom Egoyan, David Cronenberg, and Bruce McDonald. Some of the superlative adjectives used to describe Polley: phenomenal actress, excellent screenwriter, supremely talented director, and might I add wunderkind as Polley is only 34 years old.
Her first film was 2006's Away From Her, a story about an elderly woman played by Julie Christie succumbing to the effects of Alzheimer's. It's a story that could be rife with sentiment (it even echoes some of the plot of The Notebook) but Polley's assured direction gives the film its dramatic heft without sinking into corniness. Polley adapted the screenplay from a short story in the New Yorker, and she justifiably earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay.
Her next film was Take This Waltz, a movie that gets superb dramatic performances from Michelle Williams and (believe it or not) Seth Rogen. The subject matter is not as hefty as Away From Her which led some critics to feel that Polley was dealing with more frivolous material, but Take This Waltz is that rare romantic film that focuses on the individuals in a relationship rather than exploring the couple as an entity in and of itself.
And I am excited to have the opportunity to gush about Polley's latest film again, Stories We Tell is perhaps the rarest of breeds: a genuinely exciting documentary. While making a documentary about your own family history may seem to be self-centered, Polley makes a movie that is overflowing with dramatic tension more about how people deal with their own history rather than having it be about her admittedly unique family. If you haven't caught Stories We Tell yet it comes highly recommended, and you'll see Polley deserves the crown as the best female director working today.
Are there any directors I overlooked? Want to comment on the irony of a male writing a list about female directors? Let us know in the comments.