Sarah Polley is a talented Canadian actress mostly seen in independent movies such as Go and the odd mainstream movie such as the 2004 remake of Dawn of the Dead. She has more recently made the leap into directing with films such as Take This Waltz and the Oscar nominated Away from Her. But will her documentary film Stories We Tell be as well received?
The film focuses on Polley’s own family with interviews from her relatives and family friends. Her father Michael Polley narrates the movies while the film switches between interviews to Super 8 footage made to look like home movies of Polley’s family.
To give more details about this thoughtful and accomplished movie would spoil what the film is about and it’s best not to do much research before seeing this film. Part of the intrigue with this film is trying to work out what is the secret within Polley’s family. As Polley slowly reveals the purpose of the movie you will have already been drawn in to this family and their different perspectives of the truth.
Towards the end of the movie Polley is asked many times why she decided to tell this story through film and why she would choose to feature so many interviews of people who were not actually part of the events and who are mostly repeating what they had heard from others or how these events later impacted on them. Polley is also questioned about whether or not it should only be the people directly involved who should be telling this story. But Polley’s film is not just about the truth, it is about how we tell the truth. It raises a lot of questions about how families tell stories, memories and how each person can tell the same tale but can have small or major differences depending on who is telling the story or how they feel about the subject. She could have left the narrative to one person, to one perspective but I think that would have been a lesser film and it wouldn’t have had the same emotional impact that this movie does.
Perhaps Polley drags the film out longer than it needs to, as I thought a few times the movie was going to end and then it continued on. However as the film ponders on why we feel compelled to tell these stories and why choose to make them public, you can’t help but be won over by Polley and her film.
Rating 4/5 – allow yourself to go in blind and give yourself over to this powerful movie