Stories We Tell (Canada; 108 min.)

directed by:
Sarah Polley
Stories We Tell

Bruce says: "Sarah Polley first dazzled film lovers with wonderful performances in THE SWEET HEREAFTER, EXOTICA, THE HANGING GARDEN, LAST NIGHT, and MY LIFE WITHOUT ME. Then she turned to directing and dazzled once again with the narrative features AWAY FROM HER and TAKE THIS WALTZ. How does one follow up after such an endless string of successes? Ms. Polley now delivers a documentary feature that is every bit as scintillating as her narrative work.

“Most of us have some big old family skeletons in the closet. Many choose to not open the door or, should they do so, pretend there is nothing in the closet to see. Sarah’s mother Diane died when she was just eleven, a difficult age to lose a mother. For years there had been rumors that her mother had affairs and was very seriously involved with a fellow actor when she left her family for a number of months to perform on the Montreal stage. Some inferred that actor was her father.

“Sarah grew up with her father and fellow actor Michael Polley. The two have worked together on several occasions. Many years younger than her full siblings, the two were alone together after Diane Polley died. Several years ago Sarah began interviewing everyone in her family about Diane, what they knew about her, what they thought about her. As the project grew and took shape, she asked Michael to help her. He agreed to write the narrative for the film and to be the narrator who reveals family secrets. This was a courageous and loving gift.

“Diane Polley was an intriguing beauty. Home movies illustrate how illusive she was, always the life of the party but never quite there. She wanted to be the center of attention; she wanted to run away. Each of her four other children offer their opinions. Two were fathered by her first husband and two with Michael. The extended family is included, friends, those she worked with in the theatre and on television. The descriptions of Diane are varied ’Infectious.’ ‘Enthusiastic.’ ‘ Loud.’ ‘Good time Charlie.’ ‘Always in trouble.’ ‘Dominating.’ ‘Magnetic.’ ‘Excitable.’ ‘Calm.’ ‘Centered.’ ‘Insane.’ ‘Lacking guile.’ ‘Woman of secrets.’ No wonder no one knew exactly who Diane was.

“When Diane was offered a stage role in Montreal it came at the time when her marriage had grown stale. ‘Dad says mom wanted more sex than he did,’ is one way of positioning things. After she returned from Montreal she was pregnant. Michael and she had spent a little time together there so no one asked questions. Diane wanted an abortion but at the last minute she changed her mind. So Sarah was born.

“STORIES WE TELL examines the vagaries of truth and the unreliability of memories. Truths beget other truths, and that leads one to think about truths that are concealed. STORIES WE TELL is reminiscent of 51 BIRCH STREET, the documentary by filmmaker Doug Block who discovered his mother had a secret life when he discovered the diaries she had kept for most of her married life. Sarah Polley, too, discovers truths that would have remained silent had she not explored her mother’s past so thoroughly. Her film is entertaining and enlightening. Whether it all adds up good or bad is difficult to ascertain. As Ms. Polley says, ‘Something has forever changed.’ 5 cats

“(STORIES WE TELL screened at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival.)"