Each family has a narrative that passes down from generation to generation. A proscribed narrative can not necessarily always be the truth, but rather it is crafted by the people who tell it to the next generation. A crotchety old relative becomes a serene one with just the right slant on events. In Stories We Tell, actress Sarah Polley struggles with the story of her family and the secrets that lie underneath.
Sarah Polley grew up in a performing family. She was the youngest of the children that her mother had both in a previous marriage and the one where Sarah was conceived. And she came out of nowhere, a little bundle of joy and surprise. When Sarah was young, her mother died of cancer, leaving her alone in the house with her father. Her and her father grew close but something lingered in the household. She did not look like her father or her siblings. It seems when her mother was younger, she had an affair with a quirky man while she was performing in a play. She became pregnant and passed the baby off as her husband’s once she returned to the family. She refused to tell anyone this even up to her death. Several years later, she starts to investigate the hints that she may not be biologically related to her father and discovers the truth. Polley then decides to make a documentary about the ordeal and this is the story that we find.
Polley is an interesting and vivacious new director. Although she has been working in Hollywood since she was young, it isn’t until recently when she became more mature that she has delved into being behind the camera. Due to her relationship with all of her relatives and the tangential people involved, she is able to glean interesting insights into a life that still remains a mystery to her. She is even able to get the man who her mother had an affair with to talk candidly about that time. She is able to capture what is so captivating about her non-biological father and give a voice that is equal to the man who had a hand in conceiving her.
This is an insightful and daring documentary that blends recreated scenes with real home movies almost seamlessly. She is able to get at the essence of the lies and stories people tell each other in order to convince themselves that they are doing the right thing, even if it is wrong. This is a great documentary.