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Stories We Tell (2012)

7.6
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Ratings: 7.6/10 from 7,491 users   Metascore: 91/100
Reviews: 43 user | 159 critic | 36 from Metacritic.com

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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Title: Stories We Tell (2012)

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Cast

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
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Storyline

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

Genres:

Documentary

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

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

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

17 January 2013 (Greece)  »

Also Known As:

Histórias que Contamos  »

Box Office

Opening Weekend:

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

Gross:

$1,599,038 (USA) (4 October 2013)
 »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Quotes

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.
See more »

Connections

Features Mr. Nobody (2009) See more »

Soundtracks

Skinny Love
Written by Justin Vernon (as Justin Deyarmond Edison Vernon)
Performed by Bon Iver
Courtesy of Jagjaguwar
100% obo Justin Deyarmond Edison Vernon
c/o April Base Publishing (ASCAP)
Administered by Kobalt Music Publishing America, Inc.
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Distasteful movie
26 January 2014 | by (Israel) – See all my reviews

This is a documentary that tries to explore larger issues of humanity by exploring the various secrets, stories and viewpoints buzzing around Sarah's dead mother, including her personality, her relationship with her husband, as well as her possible infidelity, the last of which has an obvious consequence on Sarah. Sarah makes everyone share their version of 'the story' of her mother, and splices it all together while investigating and 'interrogating', to see what truth, if any, emerges. At least, that's the theory.

The plot summary has this to say:

"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 larger human story."

But don't be fooled. The only thing correct about that summary is that it is 'deeply personal'. And it should have stayed deeply personal.

The "elusive nature of truth" and the different versions of "the story" is just simple gossip. No amount of film-school hyperbole or fancy talk can alter that fact.

When a key person in the story states towards the end that only the key people should be allowed to tell the story because only they know the full truth, he is partially correct. He is incorrect, because it's obvious that even he doesn't know the full truth and is delusional. But he is also correct in that everyone else is just passing on useless gossip that only provides a disservice to the truth and to her mother.

But this documentary purportedly demonstrates how people interpret the truth according to their personal viewpoints and needs. I suppose that is true in this one deluded case, but with everyone else, the only thing that we 'learn' is that they enjoy gossip and are exhibitionists.

As far as the alleged thoughtful commentary is concerned, I'll never forget this outrageous quote from the movie: "She had the strength and ability to keep all of her loyalties." Somehow, loyalty now means lying to your husband.

Painfully personal introspections are exhibited, private bedroom details are shared as if they were an anthropology experiment, and juicy rumors and gossip are thrown around even concerning a dead person. All throughout the movie I kept wondering what is wrong with these people. Despite the attempt at sophistication and the lack of scenes of people yelling at each other, watching this felt the same to me as watching Jerry Springer.

Dressing it up with pretentious attempts at sophistication and self-obsessed introspection does not change the fact that they are just making a big fuss over whether she cheated or not, and who with.

So, the larger issues of humanity boils down to gossip and infidelity. Therefore I didn't find anything interesting here, since I am not a voyeur. This is just dirty laundry. Please do not flaunt it. Even if it were really "profound, funny and poignant" then it would be questionable, but it isn't.

I even found the 'surprises' in the movie very unsurprising, because it all boils down to character. And the character was obvious to me in the first ten minutes.

Imagine if only one of the key people refused to participate in this movie based on the fact that it was private. The movie would have been impossible to make because the only thing left would have been gossip. The fact that they didn't refuse to participate says more to me about humanity than the stories they told. Unfortunately.


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