Stories We Tell (2012)

PG-13  |   |  Documentary  |  17 January 2013 (Greece)
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Ratings: 7.6/10 from 8,657 users   Metascore: 91/100
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A film that excavates layers of myth and memory to find the elusive truth at the core of a family of storytellers.



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23 wins & 38 nominations. See more awards »



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Director: Sarah Polley


Cast overview, first billed only:
Michael Polley ...
Himself - Storyteller
Harry Gulkin ...
Himself - Storyteller
Susy Buchan ...
Herself - Storyteller
John Buchan ...
Himself - Storyteller
Mark Polley ...
Himself - Storyteller
Joanna Polley ...
Herself - Storyteller
Cathy Gulkin ...
Herself - Storyteller
Marie Murphy ...
Herself - Storyteller
Robert MacMillan ...
Himself - Storyteller
Anne Tait ...
Herself - Storyteller
Deirdre Bowen ...
Herself - Storyteller
Victoria Mitchell ...
Herself - Storyteller
Mort Ransen ...
Himself - Storyteller
Geoffrey Bowes ...
Himself - Storyteller (as Geoff Bowes)
Himself - Storyteller


In this inspired, genre-twisting new film, Oscar®-nominated writer/director Sarah Polley discovers that the truth depends on who's telling it. Polley is both filmmaker and detective as she investigates the secrets kept by a family of storytellers. She playfully interviews and interrogates a cast of characters of varying reliability, eliciting refreshingly candid, yet mostly contradictory, answers to the same questions. As each relates their version of the family mythology, present-day recollections shift into nostalgia-tinged glimpses of their mother, who departed too soon, leaving a trail of unanswered questions. Polley unravels the paradoxes to reveal the essence of family: always complicated, warmly messy and fiercely loving. Stories We Tell explores the elusive nature of truth and memory, but at its core is a deeply personal film about how our narratives shape and define us as individuals and families, all interconnecting to paint a profound, funny and poignant picture of the ... Written by The National Film Board of Canada

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis



Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for thematic elements involving sexuality, brief strong language and smoking | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

17 January 2013 (Greece)  »

Also Known As:

Histórias que Contamos  »

Box Office

Opening Weekend:

$27,053 (USA) (10 May 2013)


$1,599,038 (USA) (4 October 2013)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


Himself - Storyteller: When you're in the middle of a story, it isn't a story at all but rather a confusion, a dark roaring, a blindness, a wreckage of shattered glass and splintered wood, like a house in a whirlwind or else a boat crushed by the icebergs or swept over the rapids, and all aboard are powerless to stop it. It's only afterwards that it becomes anything like a story at all, when you're telling it to yourself or someone else.
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References Lies My Father Told Me (1975) See more »


The Light Fantastic Toe
Written by Abraham Lass
From PLAY ME A MOVIE (Folkways Records/AH 3856)
Courtesy of TRF Production Music Libraries and Alpha Music Inc. and
Smithsonian Folkways Recordings.
© 1971 Used by permission.
See more »

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User Reviews

While interesting, it doesn't pack much emotionally
26 February 2014 | by (Australia) – See all my reviews

Sarah Polly's intimate and unique documentary Stories We Tell was one of last year's biggest festival and critical hits in the doco field with her fresh approach to telling a story using 8mm film to recreate the past and talking heads to tell the present hitting a chord with audiences. As one of the most critically acclaimed movies of last year hype for the movie remains strong and in that respect Stories We Tell is an overrated movie.

To get the most out of Stories one must be wholly invested in the concerns of Polly's family and the eventual revelations that come forth from her questioning and investigating of the past but if your investment is minimal as I found mine was any emotional impact the film clearly has for many is dulled and therefore the film as a whole nothing more than a slightly intriguing piece of life in all its glories and in all its hidden secrets. It must be said however that the films early stages are quite promising and downright riveting it's not until revelations are made clear that the film starts to struggle and you get the sense this is more a film for Polly herself than we the watchers.

It's nice that Polly chooses to air some very personnel and deep seeded emotions in the way of this film but one question's if what is being found out is of much benefit for someone not in the Polly family. Great documentaries like Searching for Sugarman or Dear Zachary work on emotional levels because what is being discovered as the film and participants go on is relatable in more large scale and universal ways, Stories showpiece just does not have the power to affect like this. The film also has a waft of self-importance that allows proceedings to sadly go in circles and length wise drag out to near two hours which with this format gets old fast.

Being critical as I have been, Stories is still a movie that will appeal to many a wide ranging audience and for people that may have been through similar family circumstances a tale that will really hit home. For the rest of us though Stories sadly is one of last year's more overrated documentaries and in a genre that is consistently producing the goods it will be quickly forgotten in the wave of other quality entries.

3 storytellers out of 5

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