“One of the boldest and most exciting films I’ve seen in the last six months” – A.O. Scott, New York Times
I think it’s a universal thing in every family that people have their own specific versions of pivotal events or even small memories. To them, they are 100 percent certain that their recollections are the truth, because whatever the truth is, as they recall it, has formed them and it is part of their history. Discrepancies in memory preoccupy families, and the idea of this fascinated me.
In the few short years since acclaimed Canadian actor Sarah Polley first revealed her remarkable talents as a writer and director, audiences have already come to expect the aesthetic rigour and reserved yet deeply felt emotion she brings to her studies of human relationships. In her first two features, Away From Her and Take This Waltz, she rendered the complexities of intimacy and desire with the eloquence and control of filmmakers with far more experience. Away From Her in particular asked questions about how we can know ourselves or assess our lives if we can’t agree on the events of the past. Memory is truth — at least emotional truth. And nowhere in life are shared memories more fiercely contested than in the family.
Stories We Tell, Polley’s maiden voyage into the world of documentary, is at heart a personal essay on the intractable subjects of truth and memory. Using a combination of archival footage, still photos and testimon-ials in a captivating visual assemblage, Polley examines the disagreements and varying narratives of a single family as they look back on decades-old events.
The responses from the “storytellers” chosen to share their version of things are heartfelt, revealing and even charmingly funny. The result is a lively and richly textured documentary that seamlessly blends past and present, the real and the imagined. Devoid of sensationalism and filled with tender and powerful moments, the film also serves as a loving homage to one key player who is no longer here to share her version.
Agata Smoluch Del Sorbo, Toronto International Film Festival