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.
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