Film Review: Stories We Tell

Sarah Polley’s Stories We Tell is a fascinating exploration into storytelling and a very personal family history.

Filmmaker Sarah Polley delves into her family history, seeking the truth  about an incident that occurred many years ago. In interviewing numerous sources, she examines the the contradicting memories, in an attempt to piece together the indisputable story…

Stories We Tell is a documentary, but not exactly a straightforward one. To begin with, the subject matter is an intensely personal one, with Sarah Polley interviewing her family and family friends. Furthermore, it is clear from the beginning that there is something more to the film, as the main topic is not made clear from the outset.

Polley’s documentary works on two levels. Firstly there is the element of narrative, and finding a common truth from the recollections of a number of storytellers. Secondly, there is the family history and personal story.

Exploring the memories of her mother, Stories We Tell is one of the most personal films ever likely to be made. The film could have easily become self-indulgent given this subject matter. Thankfully it eschews this fate. This is because the story that unfolds is so fascinating, thanks to the narrative itself and the way in which Polley has brought it to the screen.

Stories We Tell keeps viewers guessing about the crux of the story for a significant period. This is certainly an attribute, as it keeps viewers guessing. Given the personal nature of the tale, it is unsurprising that  the interviewees become emotional at times. Polley successfully conveys this to viewers, making the film affective on an emotional level.

Stories We Tell highlights the detractions of the multiple-narrator story, highlighted by the contradictory recollections of times and events. However, it also indicates the amusement in trying to piece together such a tale.

With Stories We Tell, Sarah Polley offers something different, and a film that feels rewarding.