Stories We Tell Review
I never would have thought that a director to look for in this new decade would be the lead actress from Zack Snyder's 2004 remake of "Dawn of the Dead."
Sarah Polley is a Canadian actress and filmmaker who is really good in front of and behind the camera. Along with "Dawn of the Dead," Polley has directed two good movies, in 2007 she made "Away From Her." A film about an elderly couple whose relationship is crippled when one of them gets Alzheimer. Due to my own personal experiences with the disease, I found the film truly heartbreaking. Now in 2013, Polley has made a documentary about the story of her family.
I am sure most of you are thinking "how self-indulgent." I understand completely where you would be coming from. If I were a documentary filmmaker, I doubt I would make my first film about my family. I wouldn't simply because I don't know how many people would rush the theater lines to see it. Even as Polley's "Stories We Tell" opens, many of Polley's relatives are puzzled by her need to tell this story. But as her sister says in the film's opening "every family has their story." This is the story of Sarah Polley's family and it maybe more interesting than average.
The film mainly focuses on Sarah mom, Diane. She comes off as a wild yet loving free-spirit who loved her family deeply. She marries Michael Polley and their life together seemed sweet, well at least according to Michael. According to other members of the family, Michael was there but he kind of wasn't. We learn about Diane's sudden death due to cancer and the mystery behind Sarah resembling someone else. The documentary's big mystery revolves around Diane's extramarital affair to another man, a relationship which gave birth to Sarah.
The film's key is how easily relate able the whole thing is, even if it is a random family's story. Half of the fun of the movie is listening to the family talk, hearing everyone's story. It may seem silly, but at the same time, makes perfect sense. Have you ever noticed that if you ask two people to tell the same story, it sounds different from both people. I certainly do, I hear it everyday. If I am reminiscing the glory days with my college buddies or telling a funny old story with family, depending on who is telling the story really effects the outcome of it. We all tell stories with our own experiences, backgrounds, biases, beliefs and emotions, no two alike with anyone else in the world. How we tell stories is what makes us unique as individuals and that is something Polley tries to explore in her documentary. It is relentlessly fascinating and Polley having such a rich family history makes this documentary much more juicer.
The only flaw I saw during this film's entire run-time was it felt it ended at about the one hour, thirty minute mark. However, there was still fifteen minutes of film left, those fifteen minutes I feel could have easily been edited. For a movie about a particular family, the pacing is excellent and handled with care. In the last fifteen minutes though its not, the film feels the need to continually cover ground we have already passed through. I didn't get it, but it didn't kill the picture for me.
I was surprised how invested I was in Polley's documentary. I could tell this came from a place full of passion and desire and it showed in the final cut. This documentary is proof that a filmmaker can tell whatever story they want to tell, if treated with the proper care it can sore. No matter what that story is, it can sore. I would have never imagined I'd ever be affected by a documentary about another family with a two-timing mother, but I was deeply affected by "Stories We Tell."
FINAL GRADE: A-