Film Review: Sarah Polley’s ‘Stories We Tell’ Resonates For All Viewers

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Average: 5 (1 vote)

CHICAGO – Sarah Polley’s “Stories We Tell” may seem deceptively simple or even boring in concept. At its core, it’s a film about a talented filmmaker and actress investigating her family’s past and her own lineage. Where Polley’s work goes from mere family movie to something much greater is in how she uses her own quest for answers to illuminate why & how we tell stories in the first place, especially in the form of film. The ripple effect of memory, the way stories reveal personality, nature vs. nurture, and the idea that it not just action but how we share, the stories we tell, that impact future generations. This is the best film to be released in Chicago so far this year. Oscarman rating: 5.0/5.0
Rating: 5.0/5.0

From the beginning, Polley is playing with the form of the family biographical documentary. The subject is her mother, Diane. She passed away when Sarah was very young and it makes sense that Polley would want to speak with her father and siblings about the mother she never really knew. Who was Diane? Was she melancholy because she longed for a theatrical career she could never have? Was she happy with her family? What did we learn from her life and her having left so soon? “Stories We Tell” could have been merely a series of interviews, talking-head clips with people who knew Diane and Sarah and could help bridge the gap between the two created by time and death.

StarRead Brian Tallerico’s full review of “Stories We Tell” in our reviews section.

However, Polley starts subverting expectations right from the beginning. We see her father Michael not merely in interview but in a recording booth, reading the story of his love and life with Diane. Sarah sits at the sound board, sometimes even asking for alternate takes. One of Polley’s brothers asks how he looks on film. We are being constantly reminded that this is a story within a story. It is Michael Polley’s story, first and foremost, but it is also being crafted, edited, and directed by Sarah Polley. The concept of turning personal into public feels even deeper when one considers Polley’s other films, “Away From Her” and “Take This Waltz,” which simply cannot be watched with the same detachment from their filmmaker after seeing “Stories We Tell.”

StarContinue reading for Brian Tallerico’s full “Stories We Tell” review.

“Stories We Tell” was directed by Sarah Polley. It is now playing in some markets and opens in Chicago on May 17, 2013.

Stories We Tell
Stories We Tell
Photo credit: Roadside Attractions

Brilliant's picture

Wonderful genre bending film

Sarah Polley is just wonderful, lovely, intelligent and thanks to her love of exploring she has created a very uniquely enjoyable documentary that tells the story of an issue within her family, from various points of view. Having it told from more than one perspective, in such an intimate way, is what makes this film work so well. Events are remembered differently from person to person, depending on what is important to the individual… and this film puts that on display. It’s like sitting in on a family discussion among people that love each other very much. Whenever 10 people look at 1 thing, there are 10 different versions of that 1 thing existing in mass consciousness. Her talent has not been tainted by ‘US Hollywood Inc’. She’s very thoughtful and is able to focus on telling a story in an original way- even if her biological father insisted on telling the story from just his perspective. Seeing the finished product is justifying enough that her choice was the way to go. What she’s created is Very original in form and she should be very proud of her finished product. I know when I’m seeing something special and this was definitely in that realm.

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