Stories We Tell ★★★½

An intensely personal film that begins as a rather dry biopic on Polley's mother and the history between her mother and father, and gradually becomes a much more intimate exploration of what a family is, and how relationships are communicated and chronicled.

Blending archival footage, recreations of key moments, and personal interviews with her family and acquaintances, the film comes together as a cohesive whole aesthetically, exemplifying the archetype of a "personal doc". It's difficult to tell what is recreation and what is archival, for which Polley is well-deserving of credit.

It's not until the latter half of the film that Sarah actually adds her voice to the mix, as she makes a conscious choice to distance herself during the setup of the film. In the final act she stops her circumlocution around the emotions she is clearly trying to express and finally expresses them with an impressive amount of craftsmanship. But taking so long to finally start saying something, rather than merely shading in a history of the people involved (people who we don't know) did a detriment to my experience of actually engaging with the film. It's interesting, but it's not until the film begins to explore the notion of storytelling itself that it really begins to engage on an intellectual level. It becomes a sort of embodiment of the very heart of storytelling she's seeking to explore, and it's worth the ride to get there.