7.6/10
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49 user 176 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.

Director:

Sarah Polley

Writers:

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

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Cast

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

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

Canada

Language:

English

Release Date:

17 January 2013 (Greece) See more »

Also Known As:

Histórias que Contamos See more »

Filming Locations:

Toronto, Ontario, Canada See more »

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Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$27,053, 12 May 2013, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$1,599,038, 4 October 2013
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

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. Excellently done. See more »

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.
See more »

Connections

References Lies My Father Told Me (1975) See more »

Soundtracks

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

 
Not as billed, maybe better
15 June 2013 | by mightythor47See all my reviews

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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