‘Stories We Tell,’ reviewed by Marshall Fine


Sarah Polley’s “Stories We Tell” is one of the year’s best films: funny, moving, thought-provoking – and so personal that it strikes universal chords.

While critics often score indulgent filmmakers by referring to their efforts as “home movies,” Polley has turned that insult on its head. She takes her actual home movies and repurposes them as a documentary about the nature of how we tell the stories of our lives.

In doing so, she touches upon a common meme: that life is a movie and, while we think we’re each starring in our own production, we are also supporting or bit players in scores of other people’s personal tales as well. Then the question becomes: To whom do these stories belong?

In Polley’s case, it’s the story of her mother, the former Diane Buchan, who died when Polley was 11. Polley interviews her father, Michael, and her four siblings about her mother, apparently a woman for whom the word “vivacious” was invented.

A part-time casting director in Toronto and a would-be actress, Diane was a force of nature – funny, disorganized, energetic. Her death from cancer left a void in the lives of all who were close to her. But her absence – and Sarah’s growing-up – began to raise posthumous questions that eventually prodded Polley into re-examining her family roots.

This review continues on my website.

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