Film Review: STORIES WE TELL

Written and Directed by Sarah Polley
Starring: the Polley family and friends

After her films, AWAY FROM HER and TAKE THIS WALTZ, Sarah Polley shows up with a third film, a documentary where she turns the camera on her own family.

Polley’s mother, an actress, died when Sarah was a child. An ongoing joke in the Polley family was that Sarah bore no resemblance to her father. This obviously had an impact on her because she sets out to get to the truth of the matter—first as a daughter and then as a documentary maker. In STORIES WE TELL, Sarah interrogates her father, siblings, and friends of her mother to get to the bottom of this question. Using home movies and interviews, a narrative begins to emerge. Or does it?

Diane Polley was an exuberant actress who spent considerable time on the road (Montreal) leaving her two children (Polley’s older brother and sister) at home with her husband, Michael for at least one extended period. You may remember Michael Polley from SLINGS AND ARROWS, a Canadian production about a Shakespeare Festival. The family mythology is that a member of the troupe in Montreal was actually Sarah’s father.

Sarah interviews him and other members of the acting company. Her father, Michael, also narrates an extensive account of his own in a studio setting. Her siblings have their own take on it too. Despite numerous oddities, this is a loving family you won’t soon forget.

It is difficult to talk about the film without revealing spoilers. Let me say this. This was a remarkable film in unexpected ways. You must finish it out to understand the complete story unless you are a wiser viewer than me. Polley has done a remarkable job in framing her story, of adding the right details at the right time, in creating suspense and then turning it on its ear.

I can’t wait to see what comes next for this most talented woman.

Patti Abbott