7.6/10
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49 user 171 critic

Stories We Tell (2012)

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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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24 wins & 42 nominations. See more awards »

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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

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Genres:

Documentary

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

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

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Release Date:

17 January 2013 (Greece)  »

Also Known As:

Histórias que Contamos  »

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Box Office

Opening Weekend:

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

Gross:

$1,599,038 (USA) (4 October 2013)
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1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Quotes

Michael Polley - 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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Connections

Features Mr. Nobody (2009) See more »

Soundtracks

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.
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User Reviews

 
"What is this documentary REALLY about?"
1 October 2013 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

STORIES WE TELL is a quietly thought-provoking exposé of how difficult it can be to clarify even the simplest truths regarding human relationships and how "truth" can vary a great deal according to who you talk to, even when everyone's doing their honest best. The extended family in this documentary film is a most interesting one, and each individual member is a fascinating character in her or his own right, in spite of, perhaps because of, the fact that there is nothing truly weird about any of them. The extensive use of home video footage from the 60s, 70s, and 80s really carries the film. The small details--e.g., the father's musing on the lonely fly on the wall--are also significant, as are certain fine points in the dialogue between Director Sarah Polley and the family members she "interrogates."

Some true surprises occur during the course of the interviews; STORIES WE TELL goes deep in its own subtle, quiet way. Still, at the risk of sounding like a vulture, I was hoping for some darker--or at least more unusual or startling--revelations. While it's easy to understand why the real substance of the film--I don't want to give away the specifics--is critical stuff for Sarah Polley, it's nothing the average person hasn't seen or read in other works, factual or fictional. STORIES WE TELL also takes too long to show what it has to show. While the multiple perspectives are intriguing, they become ponderous and repetitive after a while.

In any event, this film functions well as a simple yet meaningful think-piece. Those who want a lot of variety, excitement, layers & twists, etc, however, may be a trifle bored by it.


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