Stories We Tell Review

Stories We Tell (Rated PG-13, 108 minutes)


What happens when one finds out the most intimate details about a loved one? What happens when those details show that he or she may not be the person you thought they were? Well when it happened to Sarah Polley, she decided to make an experimental documentary out of it. Stories We Tell explains the story of Sarah Polley’s mother, Diane Polley; however, this documentary is not solely about Sarah’s mother. Polley makes each interviewee explain ‘the whole story;’ instead of using pieces of each interview to blend a narrative together, Polley decides to use these contradicting stories to show how imperfect human memory can be.

Now, this idea of remembering one person through several flawed narratives is quite intriguing; but it helps that this is one of the most interesting stories to ever be put on film. While I do not want to give anything away, the mystery of the film will keep everyone on the edge of his or her seat. As Polley continuously disinters the many layers of her mother, the audience wonders will Polley like what she finds out. Or more importantly, can she trust what she finds out? The brilliant part of this film is that the audience takes these contradicting stories as truth and by the end the viewer believes there is nothing left to decipher: as if all the layers of Diane Polley have been figured out. However, the end credit scene completely discredits this and the audience is left wondering if they learned anything about this very complicated woman.

With that said, there is one problem with this film; Stories We Tell mainly uses real family footage mixed with recreations. For the most part, the reenactments of certain events work because it the scenes look like they were shot on an old 8mm camera. However, certain aspects of the recreations are distracting and hurt the overall product. For instance, the ‘heavy-handedness’ of her mother’s funeral, while important, made that scene feel like a badly shot soap opera. But again this is a small gripe in an overall intriguing film.

Stories We Tell blends a perfect story with an amazingly deep concept. This idea of flawed narrative is present in everyday society, yet people do not think about it. Constantly details are skewed by human emotions or brain malfunctions; yet, we tend to think that memories are infallible. Stories We Tell sets out to tell a simple story of Diane Polley, but then forever changes the documentary format, as well as, our basic understanding of simple human functions. Yes, it is a simple story, but it makes one question if what he or she remembers actually happened.



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