'Stories We Tell'


Sarah Polley’s Stories We Tell is a fascinating and engaging attempt to reveal life’s everyday secrets. As Polley seeks to uncover the true identity of her biological father, she encounters an assortment of recollections, assumptions, and opinions, some conflicting, some in sync, all contributing to a seemingly elusive truth about her heritage. It’s like Last Year at Marienbad meets Maury Povich.  

Stories We Tell is formally ingenious in its presentation of key figures in this familial drama. Contemporary interviews with siblings and acquaintances are mixed with reenactments deceptively and effectively shot to mesh seamlessly with genuine home video footage of Polley’s family. Even in this visual depiction of the past, the truth remains ambiguous and illusory.

Adding to the self-conscious unspooling of the investigation, Polley films her “father” as he narrates the documentary in the third person, even when talking about himself and his feelings and impressions. Where the films gains its most potent power though, is in its basic chronicle of events. Stories We Tell is about just that – the narratives that form our lives. In this personal tale of one family’s lineage, Polley examines the intricacies, certainties, and fallacies that ultimately shape our individual existence: how we got here, who was involved, and what really happened … if we can ever really know.


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