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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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The actress and filmmaker Sarah Polley found out when she was in her early twenties that the father who raised her was not her biological father. "Stories We Tell" is her reconstruction of the circumstances that led her mother (who died when Polley was 11) to have an affair and child with another man. She interviews both of the fathers as well as her siblings and other key players in her mother's life in an attempt to piece together a portrait of the woman, and she creates fake home video footage to supplement the action. In what amounts to a small twist (at least it was for me), we see about mid-way through the movie Polley directing this fake footage, and the actors she's assembled to play her various family members, and realize that what we've been watching all along has been a recreation and not the real thing. I suppose I should have known I wasn't watching actual home video footage, and if I'd paused long enough to think about it I probably would have figured that out on my own, but I didn't, so the twist worked on me.
I'm not sure "Stories We Tell" accomplished Polley's stated objective, which she claims over and over again during the film to be an examination of the past and the way it's impossible to ever get at the truth of past events because they're distorted through the prisms of others' memories and recollections. The problem with her theory is that everyone's account of the past is pretty consistent, and there aren't really different perceptions of how things went down. But even if it's not successful at achieving that goal, it's still a fascinating exploration of family dynamics, and we feel the sense of closure watching this film that Polley probably felt in making it.
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