Every once in a while comes a movie that is just what you needed and, sorry for being cliche, but an absolute breath of fresh air. Scrolling through my OnDemand selections I noticed that Sarah Polley’s Stories We Tell was available to watch (if you’re Canadian and have Rogers OnDemand, you’re welcome). I heard only raves for it and rented it and didn’t look back and I’m glad I did.
Stories We Tell is, quite simply, a very well done documentary. It is heartbreaking, funny, sweet and you’ll be on the verge of tears throughout it’s entire runtime from the sheer amount of love and emotion the family shares during their candid interviews. At the same time, while it’s a completely honest narrative, Polley plays with the form of storytelling and the documentary by playing with the different memories being shared and the way they are depicted, which sets this documentary apart from the rest.
We all have stories to tell. We find our stories captivating while others may not. We find our stories hilarious, while others may not. We all have stories to tell, but should they be told is always the question and the question Polley asks and answers with this film. I can’t give away too much of the plot without spoiling the movie and it’s better to go into this not knowing anything about the plot (like I did) and come out surprised. It’s surprisingly mysterious and “twisty” if you will (as twisty as a documentary can be) and both of those elements of storytelling are more than welcomed to a genre that too often relies on the conventions of storytelling.
What I’ve always love about Polley, in particular her last two films, is that she’s managed to make them Canadian without that element being overbearing. Take This Waltz and Stories We Tell are distinctly Canadian but only because they take place in Canada and tell the stories of people who happen to be Canadian but that is not beaten over the head of the viewer, which is often the case with Canadian cinema.
Polley allows us into her life and tells a very private and surprising story that is sometimes too personal to relate but that isn’t a fault. How Polley plays with the way the narrative is presented (actors acting out memories that I was convinced it was actual home footage, voice-over work, etc…) is so, so, so refreshing. All of it. I loved this movie so much.