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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
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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If you watch this movie expecting it to be as advertised, you may be disappointed, or at any rate bemused. The thumbnail summaries that I have read, as well as the movie's own introductory passages, all present it as an exploration of how different people create different stories from the same event. I think this may be what the director set out to do. But in fact, in the end everyone pretty much agrees about what happened, with one or two notable exceptions.
What Sarah Polley ended up creating is a meditation on what breaks families apart, and what holds them together. The insights are important, and often counterintuitive, and sometimes startling. What captured my interest, and moved me deeply, was not the detective aspects of the story -- not the revealing of family secrets -- but the gradual unraveling of their causes and effects. For this, the format of the film -- interviews with many family members and family friends -- is absolutely crucial. Some reviewers have complained that the interviews become boring and repetitive. I admit that some patience is required in hearing them out, but it is amply repaid.
I am also grateful to Sarah Polley for trying to do something different on screen. In the featureless landscape of contemporary cinema, Stories We Tell is a landmark.
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