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.

Film Review: Take This Waltz

Sarah Polley’s Take This Waltz is a well-crafted drama. The film offers great performances, writing and direction.

When Margot meets Daniel whilst working away from home, there is an instant buzz between them. The pair get along well except for one hitch; Margot is married. Margot has feelings for Daniel, whilst not wanting to hurt her husband Lou. Margot struggles to know what to do…

Take This Waltz is a character driven film that offers a meaty protagonist. Despite Margot being at the centre of the action, it is the men in the film that elicit emotions however. Lou and Daniel are likely to be the ones that draw a reaction from the audience; Margot is simply the conductor of this.

The pacing in Take This Waltz is good. Writer and director Sarah Polley allows enough time for characters and their relationships to develop. The mood is sombre and reflective for the most part. There are a few cute or amusing moments, but overall the film stays true to its dramatic roots.

The film is reminiscent of Blue Valentine. Rather than for the casting of Michelle Williams as the female lead, the parallels lie in the authenticity of both films. There is something completely believable about Take This Waltz. It is this aspect of the film that is likely to stay with viewers. The scene featuring Seth Rogen’s Lou at the kitchen table in particular is stand out. So much is conveyed from this one-sided conversation. The level of authenticity here makes the sequence a bit difficult to watch.

Performances throughout the film are excellent. Michelle Williams is great as Margot, while Luke Kirby is believable as Daniel. Seth Rogen shines in a more dramatic role than most would associate with the actor, and Sarah Silverman provides good support as Geraldine.

As it deals with emotions that can be difficult to face, Take This Waltz is decidedly sombre. Certainly not a date movie, nevertheless Take This Waltz is a superb watch.

Film Review: Splice

Splice is a bit of a strange film. There’s a feeling that the eery concept could work, but ultimately the film fails to live up to expectation.

Two ambitious scientists working at a genetics lab decide to try to combine animal and human DNA to create a new species. The couple, however, underestimate its cognitive abilities and rapid growth rate…

A modern update of the classic Frankenstein tale, the film offers the prerequisite warning on the dangers of messing with nature. Other than this, however, it offers little else. Splice lacks the trepidation expected of a science fiction-horror such as this. Whilst film begins in quite an interesting manner, the final scenes are a let down. The ending is hackneyed, reminiscent of numerous other films of this nature. Splice offers little originality or adaptation in this regard.

Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley are well cast in their respective roles. Nonetheless, neither of the two protagonists is particularly likeable, which makes it difficult to care about their fate. There is less of the tragic Victor Frankenstein about the scientists; this archetype has been replaced by conceited upstarts experimenting just to see if they can push the boundaries.

The main plus point of the film comes in the form of Dren, the hybrid created by the scientists. Director Vincenzo Natali has combined CGI and other effects with a real actress (Delphine Chanéac) to produce a highly realistic creature. The effects are seamless, particularly in her movement and interaction with the other characters.

Nonetheless, great effects are not enough to save Splice; it adds little to the genre. For a top-notch sci-fi horror film, your best bet is the far superior The Fly (either version).