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Stories We Tell (2012)

2:32 | Trailer
A film that excavates layers of myth and memory to find the elusive truth at the core of a family of storytellers.


Sarah Polley


Sarah Polley, Michael Polley (narration)
24 wins & 42 nominations. See more awards »





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

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Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

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

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »

Did You Know?


Sarah collected all the stories first. She went through all the period footage she had available. After that, she hired actors to recreate and reenact bits filmed on 8mm to complete the missing period footage. This explains why there is always "proof" of all the raconteurs stories. It works rather as flashbacks to place us in situation. See more »


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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Features Anna Christie (1930) See more »


Ain't Misbehavin
Written by Fats Waller (as Thomas 'Fats' Waller), Harry Brooks and Andy Razaf
Performed by Diane Buchan
Courtesy of Warner/Chappell Music Canada Ltd.
Published by EMI Mills Music, Inc (ASCAP) and Razaf Music
All rights administered by Primary Wave Music Publishing, LLC/Wixen Music Publishing, Inc.
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User Reviews

Truly unique biography
25 June 2014 | by Red-125See all my reviews

Stories We Tell (2012) is a documentary written and directed by Sarah Polley. This movie is unusual because it's actually a biography of the filmmaker and her family, narrated by her father, "starring" her siblings and herself, along with Polley's relatives and family friends. But the film isn't straight biography or autobiography. It's a quest film as well.

Sarah's siblings and family friends begin by talking about Sarah's mother, Diane, who died, aged 55, in 1990, when Sarah was 11 . (There's some actual 8mm footage of the family, intermixed with staged footage that has the same grainy look of old amateur filmmaking.)

Sarah's mother was beautiful, and she was vivacious and fun-loving. Sarah's dad was a handsome, decent person, but no one would describe him as vivacious and fun-loving. The marriage wasn't terrible, but it was clear to the couple--and eventually to their children--that it wasn't a good match.

That much information is established in the first half-hour of the movie. Then the question arises as to whether Sarah's dad is really her biological father. Polley decides to dig for this answer, and interview the same people she's already interviewed, although this time asking the question, "Who's my father?" Polley accumulates information bit by bit, and eventually expands her search to include people who knew Diane when she was performing in a play out of town.

As Sarah embarks on this search, the camera keeps rolling, and we go along at her side. It's a fascinating ride, because everyone has part of the picture, but only two people had the answer, and one of them is no longer alive.

Stories We Tell is a quiet, careful movie. There's anger, but no shouting, sadness, but no tears. Sarah Polley is in the middle of it all, but she's credited as the director, not as the star. In a way, the star of the movie really is the late Diane Polley, but she's the one person who can't tell her side of the story. That's what makes the whole thing so fascinating.

This is a movie you will want to see if you enjoy quiet, thoughtful, serious films. It will work equally well on a small or large screen.

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Release Date:

17 January 2013 (Greece) See more »

Also Known As:

Stories We Tell See more »

Filming Locations:

Toronto, Ontario, Canada See more »


Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$27,053, 12 May 2013

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

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Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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