Stories We Tell (PG-13)

Documentary 108 May 17, 2013
By Stephanie Zacharek
Jean-Luc Godard said, "All you need for a movie is a girl and a gun." But really, all you need is a girl, preferably a charismatic one with a secret in her heart. Director and actress Sarah Polley has found that girl: her own mother. Polley's documentary, Stories We Tell, attempts to unravel some of the mysteries of her own family's life. This wondrous, absorbing little picture covers a great deal of winding meta-territory, reflecting on the ways in which a single family's story can be told—or maybe, more accurately, examining the idea that there’s no such thing as a "single story." One girl, as Sarah Polley learns, can actually be many girls in one. Polley opens by introducing us to her cast of characters: her father, Michael Polley, an assortment of family friends, and various siblings and stepsiblings, all of whom look a little like Polley-- and yet don't. The director has assembled this tribunal to reassemble the story of her late mother, Diane, a woman we get to know gradually through home-movie footage, re-creations that have the look and feel of that home-movie footage, and recollections from the people who knew and loved her. She shapes the picture into a riddle that keeps us guessing every minute, and what she ends up with is so oddly shaped that it could be categorized an experimental film. But it's too warm to be off-putting. There's no way, Polley concludes, to tell a reliably true tale. But this particular story, which begins and ends with a woman’s face, feels true enough.
Sarah Polley Pixie Bigelow, Deirdre Bowen, Geoffrey Bowes, John Buchan, Susy Buchan, Tom Butler, Andrew Church, Peter Evans, Justin Goodhand Sarah Polley Anita Lee Roadside Attractions