This tender, painful, intimate film is the work of Canadian actor and director Sarah Polley. It is a portrait of her troubled parents, a complex labour of love – part of what is fascinating and even thrilling about this movie is that Polley may not be aware of what it reveals about her personally. This is the second time I have watched it since last year's premiere at Venice, savouring its humour, its heartbreak and its unintentional disclosures, revealing the director's vulnerability and her formidable composure.
Polley has been an object of fascination for me since I saw her charismatic, icily assured performance in Doug Liman's 1999 thriller Go!, and assured everyone that she was going to be bigger than that year's other up-and-comer Angelina Jolie; I still think I may have been right.
We've given the Guardian Screening Room a bit of a break for the last couple of months as Cannes fever swept everything before it, but now it's roaring back with a fantastic new release: Sarah Polley's Stories We Tell, the complex, disturbing study of her own family.
In what must be some kind of record, our critic Peter Bradshaw has given it a five-star review – twice. Here's what he wrote when he saw it at its world premiere at the Venice film festival:
Stories We Tell is a cine-memoir of Polley's parents, the British-born actor Michael Polley and Canadian actor and casting director Diane Polley. Using Super-8 home-movie footage, faux Super-8 reconstructions, interviews with siblings and, crucially, a memoir written by Michael, Polley has created a portrait of a
As I fly to Canada to meet Sarah Polley, I think about the glimpses of her in Stories We Tell – her first full-length documentary feature, which bowled over critics at Sundance and the Venice film festival and has won Canada's Film of the Year award. She looks like a contemplative Madonna on screen, with long, fair hair. She listens more than she talks. She encourages her family to speak. Her film may be her story – but she gets others to tell it. Michael Polley, her British-born father – an actor who worked for an
Starring: Sarah Polley, Michael Polley.
Running Time: 108 minutes.
Synopsis: Sarah Polley plays both director and investigator while trying to piece together past events that involved her family.
Daughter of British-Canadian thesp couple Michael and Diana Polley, actress-director Sarah learnt of family rumours and myths whilst growing up with her older brothers and sisters. Challenging her family to tell their stories in their own words, this is presented as difficult by all parties from the outset, but is dampened by the fact that everybody ultimately appears to tell the same version of events.
Expressing their nerves during the film’s Bon Iver-set opening, Sarah’s siblings are a captivating bunch whose constant teasing of each other is a key source of comedy throughout – just wait for the repetition of a certain someone’s name. Though what unfolds is not the lightest of subjects for the director, it
Up in smoke
Are even the French finally coming round to the idea that smoking in movies is a dying trend? In last week's release Populaire, the suave Romain Duris character is asked to stop smoking in the office by the new secretary, played by Déborah François. Although the film is set in the Gauloise-tinted 1950s, Duris's character knowingly remarks he'd only ever stop smoking if they introduced a law to ban it. Now, this week, we have the gamine Audrey Tautou, one of the most popular international symbols of Frenchness in years. She's playing Mauriac's doomed heroine Thérèse Desqueyroux, and fairly chainsmokes through her ordeal of being married to a lump. "She smokes too much," remarks a disapproving mother-in-law. What can it mean for, say, the new
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Man of Steel 3D
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Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No – it's a journalist of pre-Leveson integrity who also has another vocation. Henry Cavill plays the Man of Steel, who escaped from planet Krypton as a child after calamity hit and now has to embrace his destiny, and his Lycra, when Earth is threatened by a marauding power. Hopes
Directed by: Sarah Polley
Running Time: 1 hr 48 mins
Release Date: May 17, 2013
Plot: Filmmaker Sarah Polley interviews her family members to discuss a secret that changed her life forever.
Who’S It For? Stories We Tell goes beyond a demographic that enjoys a great documentary. If you simply like good narratives, don’t miss out on this film. And if you liked Polley’s previous Take This Waltz, Stories We Tell will be yet another gift.
Read our interview with Director Sarah Polley
Half of the journey in telling a great story is finding the right subject. For this endeavor in documentary, the highly honest Polley goes inward, into a secret that remained uncovered in the past years, but with truths that would eternally change its witnesses. Using her brothers, sisters, family friends, and father as documentary subjects, Polley shares with audiences the tale
From the beginning, Polley is playing with the form of the family biographical documentary. The subject is her mother, Diane. She passed away when
When a sister blurts out, "Who cares about our family?" she might be speaking for the audience. All these interviews, all these conflicting accounts, all this insistence that each speaker tell "the whole story" just so an actress can indulge herself in knowing the mother she never really knew?
But Polley is getting at something deeper, at who "owns" a story, at the impact of point of view, editing and biases. And as "Stories We Tell" get deeper into this saga, the jaw-dropping revelations aren't just ours,
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After the disappointment of Sarah Polley's recent feature Take This Waltz – a treacly, implausible and bafflingly inert love triangle – it is a relief, and in fact a thrill, to report that her new film is a joy.
Stories We Tell is a cine-memoir of Polley's parents, the British-born actor Michael Polley and Canadian actor and casting director Diane Polley. Using Super-8 home-movie footage, faux Super-8 reconstructions, interviews with siblings and, crucially, a memoir written by Michael, Polley has created a portrait of a marriage that is full of enormous richness, tenderness and emotional complexity.
Polley tackles painful issues with candour and tact. She has a gripping tale to tell. It's a film that raises questions about the ownership of memory and ownership of narrative. On this point, and perhaps without fully realising it,
This dark comedy from The Movie Network, a Canadian premium cable network, talks about a theatre festival.
In the fictional town of New Burbage, legendary theatrical madman Geoffrey Tennant (Paul Gross) returns to the New Burbage Theatre Festival, the site of his greatest triumph and most humiliating failure, to assume the artistic directorship after the sudden death of his mentor, Oliver Welles (Stephen Ouimette). When Geoffrey arrives he finds that Oliver is still there, in spirit anyway, and with his guidance (and often in spite of it) Geoffrey attempts to reconcile with his past while wrestling the festival back from the marketing department.
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