Over two days, my "Movies To See" list is unspooling on The Dissolve. Here's your chance to check them off,…
Stories We Tell
Filmmaker Sarah Polley interviews members of her family as they look back on decades-old events.
This movie was even more beautifully sad than watching a guy on the subway ride home eat an entire Papa John's pizza by himself.
And let me tell you my friends, that was a mighty sad sight (he was using the dipping sauce -- or at least that's how I remember it).
Stories We Tell is a moving and incredibly candid family portrait as filmmaker, Sarah Polley, explores the mysteries surrounding her mother. Beginning as a rather traditional biography of her late mother it gradually transforms into a far richer documentary that touches on identity, memory, the fallibility of truth and the power of storytelling to create a deeply personal yet universal work.
As with all the best stories it is better to experience Stories We Tell with as little prior knowledge as possible. Yet whilst the film’s narrative takes a series of surprising diversions and features several revelations there is something refreshingly ordinary about this personal discovery. One of the contributors even questions why other people would be interested in their…
The only way this movie could have been more made for me is if the opening credits included a dedication that read: "This movie was made for Adam Kempenaar."
Full discussion available here.
A few notes that didn't make it into the conversation:
- A perfectly Polley-esque touch that I failed to mention about my autobiographical short film... My wife, then girlfriend, played the younger version of my mom.
- A key to the success of this film, I believe, is Polley's obvious fairness, generosity of spirit and lack of guile. Everything we see is a capital-C construct with her as the puppet master, but there's no overriding sense of calculation that might come through with other directors. It's all…
Completely riveted by Polley's reconstruction of a family secret from multiple angles until the degree to which she was aestheticizing her life became clear. At a certain point, she comes out and tells us the themes of the documentary—in that respect, the last 20 minutes of the film are like the psychiatrist scene in Psycho.
"i swatted my fly!"
yes. unremarkable by nature, remarkable by design. Kiarostami 101, but indelibly articulates schism of being / remembering.
works in spite of itself, at times. but then again, don't we all?
also, it may not really count, but Polley includes what i'd like to consider to be the greatest credits stinger of all time.
In Stories We Tell, director Sarah Polley attempts what I think is the impossible. She attempts to create a documentary of her family story. By all accounts this shouldn’t work, as the decisions that the documentarian makes when crafting the narrative cannot possibly be objective. In this age of Moore type ‘documentaries’, where the opinions and agendas of the documentarian overshadow any semblance of balance and objectivity, Polly could have easily strayed into grey zone of ‘truth’. But she didn’t. At all. Instead, she made the question of how to find the truth when presented with different recounts of the same stories one of the central themes.
The declaration of the search for how to find the truth in the…
Like the twisted diary in Gone Girl, except real and not as satiric. A bizarre beautiful narrative experiment.
Poignant and simple. Exactly what it needs to be.
To talk about the nature of telling stories she tells her own, analyzing every single detail, then providing a twist on what we've seen so far. Polley, please return to directing, we miss you.
A stunning documentary that not only communicated its story, but had a consistent and delightful commentary back on itself - and for the first time it wasn't for the sake of being "artsy", but it was for the sake of telling a story in its most truthful and genuine form. What a complex, compelling and intelligent film.
I had to see this again -- the third time -- for another Tisch event. Would rather have gone straight home and had my leftover roast chicken. And yet, I found this deeply moving. Yet again.
Stories We Tell landed at #9 on my top ten in 2013; criminally low. I stand by my initial assessment* of the last fifteen minutes as being unnecessary exposition, but the rest is pure gold. Never have the manipulative strings of a narrative been simultaneously so nakedly visible and worked their magic so effectively. (This is not in spite of the tension between suspension of disbelief and close analysis, but because of it.) Primary takeaway this time: stories lead to discovery, which leads to more stories! It's the greatest cycle of all.
*Digression: it's crazy that I've gotten to the point in my life where I find myself reevaluating not only the movies I saw before joining letterboxd, but also the ones I saw at the beginning of my letterboxd "career". It means I'm growing up, and that fills me with immense joy and melancholy.
(Original review outdated, re-evaluation required at later date)
Most documentaries are interesting to watch, this is no different. There was nothing special about it, and I did not see any surprising turns of events as some other reviews implied, so maybe I was a little disappointed for that. Nice and watchable, but nothing I will remember for long.
I felt a very strong personal connection to this film. It was well done and reflected back on itself while audience members experienced the same phenomenon. Sometimes movies entertain you and sometimes they make you think. This one did both for me.
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