Stories We Tell – film review

Does your family tell stories in the same way as mine?  Telling stories is what we do best.   Trying to make the audience laugh, cry or occasionally just think, these stories then become our memories.  It seems to me that every family has a story, it’s just down to how they tell it.  Anyway, for all these reasons, I couldn’t wait to review Sarah Polley’s film Stories We Tell.

Sarah Polley' film Stories We Tell

Sarah Polley’ film Stories We Tell

It also just so happened to be the weekend after I have blown the dust off our very own Super 8 footage buried in my childhood home attic.  I’m trying to work out exactly what to do with the huge volume of films we have dating back to the 1960s, so I was eager to see how Polley would combine her real footage with faux home movies as she pieces together her intimate yet elegant documentary.

Daughter of retired British actor Michael Polley and the once-famous Canadian performer and TV personality Diane Polley, Sarah documents her mother’s short-lived life before she died of cancer when Sarah was only 11 years old.

Michael and Sarah after her mother's death

Michael and Sarah after her mother’s death

She interviews (in a very girl-next-door style) her siblings and her mother’s surviving friends and, together with Michael’s penned version, her tale of unreliable memories, secrets and the complexity of deep love unfolds.  Her mother had been a sexy care-free spirit who desperately needed affirmation and affection and the story reaches a climax as we learn of her an unwanted pregnancy (who is, of course, Sarah) in her early 40s followed by her query as to who her real father is.

I won’t spoil the story but I will urge you to witness this semi-controlled explosion of family and romantic love.  It is truly an outstanding piece of film and reveals more about Sarah personally that perhaps she is aware as she directs.

the film is full of Sarah's faux and real footage mixed together for full effect

the film is full of Sarah’s faux and real footage mixed together to tell her family story

And what do I take away the most from this screening?  An even stronger sense of stories:  why we tell them, what it means to tell future generations of our lives and lives gone by and, crucially, that everybody has a story in them to tell:  their own.

Stories We Tell is out now on DVD 


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