Stories We Tell

Review by Adam Woodward @AWLies

Directed by

Sarah Polley

Starring

John Buchan Mark Polley Michael Polley

Anticipation.

Take This Waltz director Sarah Polley tries her hand at documentary. This could be special.

Enjoyment.

A fearless, fascinating warts-and-all biography that doesn’t miss a single emotional beat.

In Retrospect.

Despite straying slightly off-message in its concluding segment, there’s plenty here to warrant repeat viewings.

Director Sarah Polley delivers a bittersweet and compelling autobiographical family portrait.

Great stories have a way of staying with us. Some, over time, may even take on a life of their own. So it proves in Sarah Polley’s sublime cine-memoir Stories We Tell, a tender, candid and thrilling exploration of truth, memory and the nature of perspective.

Comprised of faux-home movie Super 8 footage and first-hand interviews with a selection of close family and friends, Polley constructs a self-indulgently personal yet authentically engaging portrait of the complex relationship that has in no small part shaped Polley’s identity. To say anything more would be to spoil the experience of seeing the uniquely revelatory drama unfold. In fact, we strongly advise you go in with a little prior knowledge of the film’s subject as possible.

Though some will see this as a change of pace from Polley, there are certain parallels between this and the writer/director’s previous features Away From Her and Take This Waltz, the latter in particular shares the same self-reflexive observations on everyday intimacy. The major difference is that this is specifically film as therapy, and while there’s an argument to be had over Polley’s readiness to exploit her own flesh and blood for artistic merit, it’s important to note that she lays herself bare more so than anyone who appears in the film.

Of course, as director Polley is fully licensed to refract the various testimonies she collates through her own prism of catharsis, though if anything this serves to stimulate deeper reevaluation of the stories that shape and define us.

Published 28 Jun 2013

Anticipation.

Take This Waltz director Sarah Polley tries her hand at documentary. This could be special.

Enjoyment.

A fearless, fascinating warts-and-all biography that doesn’t miss a single emotional beat.

In Retrospect.

Despite straying slightly off-message in its concluding segment, there’s plenty here to warrant repeat viewings.

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