Sarah Polley Tackling Indie Drama 'The Best Kind of People' (Exclusive)

Sarah Polley_Zoe Whittall_split - Publicity - H 2017
Denise Cronenberg; Maxwell Landers

She will write and direct the adaptation of the Zoe Whittall novel.

Sarah Polley, the writer-director behind Stories We Tell and Away From Her, has optioned the film rights to The Best Kind of People, the novel by Zoe Whittall.

Polley will write the screenplay and plans to direct the feature adaptation.

The story focuses on an American family in which the father, a respected teacher, is arrested for a sex crime at a prep school. That occurrence leaves the rest of his family — his wife, who finds a community turning on her; his daughter, who becomes a social pariah; and his son, who helps with his defense — dealing with the possibility of his guilt.

The book has already been published in Whittall’s native Canada and is due to hit shelves in the U.S. this fall from Ballantine Random House. It became a national best-seller in Canada and was named by Toronto Life as best book of 2016.

"I want to make The Best Kind of People into a film because I believe that, among other things, it is an urgent story about our assumptions about perpetrators and survivors in sexual assault cases," Polley told The Hollywood Reporter. "In these frightening times, I believe it is more important than ever to tell this tale of rape culture, and how a family and a community grapples with who should be believed, and how far empathy can stretch itself."

The unflinching and provocative material lines up with Polley’s other work as a filmmaker. Her feature directorial debut, Away From Her (2006), for which she received an Academy Award nomination for best adapted screenplay, tackled age and Alzheimer’s disease.

Stories We Tell (2012), which won the Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for best documentary, was a personal journey about the impact of memories and Polley's discovery that the man who raised her was not her biological father. She most recently adapted Margaret Atwood's classic book Alias Grace for a six-part Netflix/CBC limited series, on which she also serves as an executive producer.

Whittall's previous novel, Holding Still for as Long as Possible, won a 2011 Lambda Literary Award and was an American Library Association Stonewall Honor Book. Her debut novel, Bottle Rocket Hearts, was similarly acclaimed, having been named a Globe and Mail Top 100 Book of the Year and listed by the CBC as one of the top 10 essential novels of the decade. The author has also worked in television, with Eugene Levy’s Schitt’s Creek and Canadian mainstay Degrassi among her credits.  

Polley is repped by WME, Circle of Confusion, Canada-based Gary Goddard Agency and Jackoway Tyerman. Whittall was repped in the deal by Paradigm on behalf of Samantha Haywood of Transatlantic Agency.