This is going to be an unusual review for me but it is one I hope you take heed of and in the end devote time to tracking this film down and viewing it. Stories We Tell is a documentary but the way it is laid out and the subject matter makes it most unusual. The film is by Sarah Polley who is a well-known actress, filmmaker, and author. I’ve always enjoyed her work so when I learned she had a done documentary I knew it would be well-crafted although I really wasn’t sure what to expect. My local Redbox actually had a copy so I rented it.
Stories We Tell is a story of love. It is a story of lovers clinging to their time with each other, a story of how children deserve to be loved, and a story of loving the life that has been granted you and most importantly a story of a child loving her parents. It is also a story of the consequences, the satisfaction and the regrets of all those loves.
The loves shown in this movie are best described as compelling. This is the description that sticks in my mind. Compelling. Sarah Polley’s mother died of cancer when she was a kid. She discovered later that her mom had a couple of affairs and as this film shows the question of who her father is became a serious issue. The answer she discovered (which I won’t giveaway in this post) is as big a plot twist as any screenwriter could think up. Like I said, compelling.
This movie hit home for me on a couple of levels. The most obvious being both of us loosing our mothers to cancer. There are other incidents though that I won’t go into that are brought out in this film that also hit home so as I watched it, I found it oddly inspiring and a piece of life captured on celluloid that could apply to any generation. it had major emotional weight and I am sure this movie will stick in my mind for years to come.
The way the movie was shot is on one hand a bit unusual and yet turns out to be one of the most creative ways to bring the story out. She has her family, friends of her mother, and those involved in the events, sit down in their own personal spaces and tell their story. Her father, an author, had written part of his out. This sounds weird on the surface but I can tell you the film isn’t stagnant nor does it stifle the flow of the story. In fact by letting people recall the memories in their own words they become at ease and open up and in the process a more complete story is pieced together. This with old footage etc. captures what is a complex but yet very human tale.
I can’t stress the human tale aspect enough for what I found is a story that occurs in each generation – somewhere in some fashion – and the people telling the story exposed their real feelings to the point that I found myself comparing them to people I knew and wondered if like a long-running play the actors weren’t interchangeable. from one generation to the next We often feel our situations are unique but truth is our song has been played before. The arrangement might sound a bit different but the melody is the same.
This is a documentary so it may not be in every video store but obviously Redbox has it in some locations. I encourage you to give it a view if you can. I will probably end up buying it at some point. It was brilliant film work and Sarah Polley was really brave, just on a human level, for tackling this subject. We all have stories to tell and she did hers in a skillful fashion.