This is—by far—the hardest category that I’ve had to vote for this year. And yet, even with that, I found myself putting together this list of talented women in a blink of an eye. These women didn’t bother us by putting together some lackluster performances. No, these are some of the best performances of 2021. My lists in both Best Supporting and Leading Actress categories could’ve been longer, but sadly, like any awards list, I held myself to only five nominees. And with that, here are the Little Movie Award nominees—and winner—for Best Supporting Actress.
5. Kirsten Dunst (The Power of the Dog)
Kirsten Dunst has come a long way from that child actress in Little Women or the bratty teenager in Bring It On. Like many of you, there was no doubt that she had the talent for longevity in this industry. However, as of late, our theater outings and televisions have lacked that certain Dunst quality. Though her time is not as long as her male counterparts, she packs a punch in The Power of the Dog. Dunst’s character, Rose, is naïve and vulnerable—a widow and mother looking out for her son. While the pressures of her toxic environment becomes too much for her, she begins to crumble. Dunst brilliantly takes on the character of Rose in such a way that we are able to see a side of Dunst that we haven’t since 2011’s, Melancholia.
4. Jessie Buckley (The Lost Daughter)
In 2019, when I first saw Judy, Jessie Buckley floated through the shadows playing Rosalyn Wilder an assistant for Judy Garland. In that time since, Buckley has continued to amaze me with not only last year’s performance as the Young Woman in I’m Thinking of Ending Things, but once again as Young Leda in The Lost Daughter. While I didn’t totally fall in love with The Lost Daughter, Young Leda’s story, more importantly Buckley’s performance, stuck out to me the most. Buckley perfectly illustrates the challenging realities of a young mother balancing both a career and her family. How normally—because of societal norms—it often falls on the mother to take care of her children rather than the father. Buckley embraces Young Leda, as she struggles to breathe in her position. Her emotions displayed on screen are usually without dialogue. You feel every ounce of it. And if you know me, you know I just love that type of quality acting in someone. Buckley does it so well.
3. Ruth Negga (Passing)
I’ll be the first to admit, that while I did see a different version at Sundance back in January 2021 from the version that was released later on Netflix, Passing is the perfect example of how films sometimes deserve a second shot. It’s extremely disappointing how Ruth Negga’s performance has gone unnoticed during this awards season, because she absolutely shines as Clare. She’s mysterious. A woman full of wit, charming everyone she comes into contact with. She clearly knows what she wants. But her life as a black woman, posing as a white woman—with a racist husband—begins to unravel when she runs into a former childhood friend, Irene. Clare and Irene are completely different—like opposite points of the same line. That mysterious quality about Clare is so precisely played by Negga. From the moment she’s shown on screen, in the small restaurant, surrounded by a sea of white, your eyes are immediately drawn to her. There’s something truly unforgettable about her performance.
2. Ann Dowd (Mass)
Mass amazed me from the first time I saw it. Since then I’ve seen it roughly four times—in part due to Ann Dowd. It’s not an easy performance, because being the mother of a mass shooter is never a simple one to play. Much less, does a character like this ever get much sympathy. But somehow, along the way, Dowd earns it. This isn’t her first time stepping into the shoes of an “unlikeable” character, or one that we don’t fully understand, but that’s what we always love about Dowd’s performances. Her character, Linda, is mentally in despair, at the actions of her son. She still carries this on her shoulders all these years later. But the question looms, were Linda and her husband responsible? Could she have done something to prevent this? That’s the haunting question that plagues her every day. The demons weigh heavy on Linda’s conscience, and Dowd portrays that to us through every ounce of her being. The mannerisms. The simple way of speaking. Dowd gives an absolutely heartbreaking performance.
1. Martha Plimpton (Mass)
It’s really no surprise that the Little Movie Award for Best Supporting Actress goes to Martha Plimpton for Mass. Back in early February of 2021, I said on a podcast for another outlet that I would fight for Martha Plimpton’s Leading Actress Oscar come award season. Though Bleaker Street has dropped the ball in its push for marketing on the entire Mass ensemble, I believe I have lived up to my promise when it came to voting this year. In addition to that, the film placed her, as well as the whole cast, in the supporting category, but I felt as though she stood out to me above the rest. Plimpton’s, Gail, has the biggest overarching conversion as a mother who’s lost her son in a school shooting. Similar to Dunst’s situation, Plimpton came up through the ranks as a young child star—acting alongside notable names such as River Phoenix—but her current roles have simply gone under the radar. Plimpton shows us with her performance here that she still has the talents to play a character of such magnitude. And while I’ve enjoyed her other strong roles in her past, I believe this is the most emotionally profound performance in her career.