1 May 2022

Run Towards the Danger by Sarah Polley

This book was one of my most anticipated early 2022 releases. I love Sarah Polley so much as a filmmaker and her impact on how I view long-term relationships cannot be understated. Anyone I've invested 10 hours in has probably heard me talk about an interview she gave on her film Take This Waltz in 2013 on monogamy and making it work. I literally repeat a line from her film to myself once a week: "In the big picture, life has a gap in it. It just does. You don't go crazy trying to fill it." I think Polley is such a talent and I couldn't wait to read her first book of essays. 

On a personal note, I found this book to be pretty upsetting. This interview I've held so closely for almost ten years is actually a painful memory for Polley and one of her essays addresses this directly. The 2013 interview was on the CBC program run by Jian Ghomeshi who a few years later was fired from his position after a handful of women came out with the abuse he inflicted on them. Polley's second essay is about her own assault and reckoning with her silence during Ghomeshi's trial. 

The essay is definitely a difficult read, but she does such a good job of explaining her guilt for not coming forward and how she has processed these events all these years later. It shouldn't be shocking, but I was still surprised by how may lawyer-friends in Polley's life told her they would NEVER recommend a friend come forward in a sexual assault case because of the media scrutiny. The essay is about her remorse for not adding her voice to the trial, but also about trying to forgive herself for doing what she felt she needed to. 

Selfishly, I found this essay really upsetting to read because of my personal connection to her 2013 interview. Her words had such a big impact on me and I've held them close for nearly a decade later. But now I can't separate her experience with Ghomeshi and the way he manipulated the interview. She directly addresses it:

When I look at my interview with Jian on Q many years later, I am taken aback by my demeanour. I am bubbly and giggly. I try to make things feel normal even as he consistently tries to throw me off. In one interview he seems bored, looking up only occasionally from his notes with dead eyes. He sometimes mocks what I say in subtle ways, and I visibly flush with embarrassment." 

She goes on to say he asked her many overtly personal questions like whether she thinks monogamy can work and how she feels about cheating. I always found her answers so compelling, but now I know how uncomfortable she was the whole time. Again, extremely selfishly, it makes me sad. But I am glad to have read the essay and to have heard her experience. 

Sarah Polley

A lot of Polley's essays are about performing as a child actor. She was in the TV show The Road to Avonlea and some movies. One essay is about her nightmarish experience on the Terry Gillam movie The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. She clearly had such a negative experience as a child actor and is adamant in many other essays that children should not be professional actors. 

The final essay is where her book's title comes from. It is about her experience with post-concussion symptoms and how she finally recovered. After years of seeing different doctors and specialists, she finally seeks help in Pittsburgh. The doctor says she has to "run towards the danger" to get better. Instead of hiding from the events that trigger her symptoms (parties, long walks, writing at her computer) she needs to fully embrace them. 

I would never describe this as a book of feel-good essays. A lot of the topics are very dark (assault, overworked children and borderline abused children, death of a parent, etc.) and can be hard to read about for long stretches of time. This book definitely changed how I view a lot of Polley's work (especially Stories We Tell) and has forced me to see some things through a completely different lens. Still, I cannot wait for her next project. Her works means a lot to me!!  

No comments:

Post a Comment