Stories We Tell (2012) Review

Stories We Tell (2012)

Directed & Written by Sarah Polley

Starring: Sarah Polley, her family, and friends

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
A film that excavates layers of myth and memory to find the elusive truth at the core of a family of storytellers.

My Opinion:

This is a damn good documentary. I suppose it helps that it was made by & “starring” a family of actors & writers and that it’s narrated perfectly by Sarah Polley’s stage actor father.

I’d been meaning to watch this for ages but I always have to really force myself to watch a documentary. I was finally forced to as I saw it was disappearing from UK Netflix, so… Sorry to anyone in the UK who may want to see it now as it’s no longer available in that way! This is one I’d certainly recommend to anyone interested in documentaries & filmmaking in general but I was also surprised at just how interested I was in hearing all about the lives of this family I’ve never met and, especially, the life of Sarah Polley’s mother, who died in 1990.

I’m automatically assuming that everyone here knows who Sarah Polley is as we’re all movie bloggers but I suppose she’s one who has pretty much avoided being a part of the mainstream. So I’ll just quickly say that she’s a director & actress probably best known for being in the Dawn Of The Dead remake, Splice & Go (plus a lot of other things I’ll admit to not seeing other than her small part in eXistenZ). I really need to re-watch Go but I absolutely loved Dawn Of The Dead and I actually really liked Splice’s Cronenberg-like nature although the film was absolutely bonkers and certainly not for everyone. But I prefer actors/actresses who choose unconventional roles & I’ve been intrigued by Polley since those two films. I really should check out the other films she wrote & directed (Take This Waltz & Away From Her).

It was very brave of Polley to explore her family’s history in this way, especially as the documentary doesn’t always paint everyone in the best light. As you might expect from the synopsis & the fact that there’s a story to be told here, this film focuses on the complexities of human nature and the secrets we can keep even from those closest to us.

I was worried the documentary might feel a little contrived or, worse, “attention-seeking”, but it never feels that way. It instead feels like this was Polley’s way of confronting her past and moving on with her life in the best way she knew how being from an artistic family of writers & actors.

Polley tells the story respectfully and, although some may be of the opinion that her mother made mistakes (I’m not of that opinion), the point is that we all do. Every family has its own story & no blame is placed on a woman who is no longer around to defend herself. Also, once the story was found out, there were reporters eager to write about it so Polley begged them not to so she could tell it in her own way. I’m glad they respected her wishes as she’s told a great story about a family no different from any of ours and about a quite complex and fascinating woman.

My Rating: 7.5/10

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24 thoughts on “Stories We Tell (2012) Review

  1. This is one of the best documentaries I have seen. I loved the way it played with the concepts of “truth” and perception.

    On 2 March 2016 at 12:01, Cinema Parrot Disco wrote:

    > table9mutant posted: ” Stories We Tell (2012) Directed & Written by Sarah > Polley Starring: Sarah Polley, her family, and friends Plot Synopsis: (via > IMDB) A film that excavates layers of myth and memory to find the elusive > truth at the core of a family of storytellers.” >

    • It really was good! I didn’t expect to care that much about some people I don’t even know but she really told the story in such a great way. Glad I caught it before it disappeared! 🙂

  2. I really wish I could’ve loved this documentary like you and many others did. I just kept asking myself “what is the point?” It bummed me out, I love Sarah Polley. I’m glad it worked so well for you.

    • Aww – sorry to hear it didn’t work for you, especially as a Polley fan. Maybe it helps that I didn’t expect to exactly “care” about these people I don’t know but I thought Polley told the story in a way that all families could relate to. 🙂

  3. I had never heard of this one. Great writing 🙂 Sounds like something worth watching.. though I’m the same as you, it seems to take a lot of effort to watch a doco

    • Thanks! 🙂 It IS worth a watch but, yes – it’s hard to get around to watching documentaries! This was far more fascinating than I was expecting for a “story about a family”, though. 🙂

  4. what a great film. I’ve never been the biggest fan of docs, but have seen some amazing ones of the last few years. This included.

    Loved the way this story was told and I was shocked when I found out that much of the home video’s were recreated for us.

    It really was soo brave of her to make this movie essentially exposing her whole family to the world.

    If you wanna see a great doc, see Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son about his Father (2008). To get the most effect, don’t read anything about it beforehand and just enjoy the storytelling method

  5. I for some reason can always get into a docu easier than a regular feature. I don’t know why. Unless that particular feature film is really short, like 90 mins or something. Sports docu’s i’m really into right now for whatever reason and it’s just weird. I’m glad you liked this one. I forgot all about the fact I had seen it and even reviewed it! Means I should go and watch it again and remind myself of its bueno qualities

    • It’s because you’re smart! 🙂 I get a little bored during documentaries & start thinking “when is something going to blow up?” 😉 I think I just like the escapism I get from fictional movies as opposed to serious documentaries. This one was good, though! But maybe NOT that good if you don’t remember it… Lol. I’ve just finally started watching that Roger Ebert documentary. There are lots of documentaries I do want to see lately. I just REALLY have to force myself!

      • Oooh yeah Life Itself? I really enjoyed it, and maybe for obvious reasons as I have taught Roger everything he knows about film criticism. I’m so proud of how he grew up. *sniff*

  6. Pingback: My Blog’s March 2016 Recap | Cinema Parrot Disco

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