Stories We Tell

2013

Stories We Tell

Critics Consensus

In Stories We Tell, Sarah Polley plays with the documentary format to explore the nature of memory and storytelling, crafting a thoughtful, compelling narrative that unfolds like a mystery.

94%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 141

79%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 14,764
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Stories We Tell Photos

Movie Info

In this inspired, genre-twisting new film, Oscar (R)-nominated writer/director Sarah Polley discovers that the truth depends on who's telling it. Polley is both filmmaker and detective as she investigates the secrets kept by a family of storytellers. She playfully interviews and interrogates a cast of characters of varying reliability, eliciting refreshingly candid, yet mostly contradictory, answers to the same questions. As each relates their version of the family mythology, present-day recollections shift into nostalgia-tinged glimpses of their mother, who departed too soon, leaving a trail of unanswered questions. Polley unravels the paradoxes to reveal the essence of family: always complicated, warmly messy and fiercely loving. Stories We Tell explores the elusive nature of truth and memory, but at its core is a deeply personal film about how our narratives shape and define us as individuals and families, all interconnecting to paint a profound, funny and poignant picture of the larger human story. (c) Roadside Attractions

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Cast

Michael Polley
as Narrator/Storyteller
Harry Gulkin
as Storyteller
Susy Buchan
as Storyteller
John Buchan
as Storyteller
Mark Polley
as Storyteller
Joanna Polley
as Storyteller
Cathy Gulkin
as Storyteller
Marie Murphy
as Storyteller
Robert MacMillan
as Storyteller
Anne Tait
as Storyteller
Deirdre Bowen
as Storyteller
Victoria Mitchell
as Storyteller
Mort Ransen
as Storyteller
Geoffrey Bowes
as Storyteller
Tom Butler
as Storyteller
Pixie Bigelow
as Storyteller
Claire Walker
as Storyteller
Rebecca Jenkins
as Diane Polley
Peter Evans
as Michael Polley
Alex Hatz
as Harry Gulkin
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News & Interviews for Stories We Tell

Critic Reviews for Stories We Tell

All Critics (141) | Top Critics (41) | Fresh (133) | Rotten (8)

  • If a personal memoir film by a beautiful, successful young woman from a nice Toronto family sounds to you like it can only be an excuse for self-absorbed navel-gazing, well, you must not have seen a Sarah Polley movie yet.

    Dec 31, 2013 | Full Review…

    Dana Stevens

    Slate
    Top Critic
  • Stories We Tell is one of those movies you watch on a screen and replay in your head for days, moving between its many levels of inquiry and touched, always, by Polley's compassion toward her relatives in particular and people in general.

    Dec 31, 2013 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…

    Ty Burr

    Boston Globe
    Top Critic
  • The opposite of a courageous piece of work, Stories We Tell goes out of its way to protect every single person it touches.

    Dec 31, 2013 | Rating: 1/4 | Full Review…
  • Sarah Polley's remarkable Stories We Tell transcends every cliche in this confessional/investigatory genre, and it's one of the year's highlights.

    Dec 31, 2013 | Rating: 4/4 | Full Review…
  • What saves it is our realisation that it isn't just a documentary.

    Jun 28, 2013 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…
  • A bittersweet and compelling autobiographical family portrait.

    Jun 28, 2013 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Stories We Tell

  • Mar 29, 2014
    Polley surprises us with the brave and unreserved way that she exposes her family's secrets while trying to extract a meaning from her quest, even if she doesn't seem to know exactly how to end it, going a bit longer past what should have been its conclusion.
    Carlos M Super Reviewer
  • Dec 12, 2013
    It's often said the simplest stories are often the most compelling when told the right way, and Stories We Tell is likely one of the most extraordinary films about family, love, choices and memories you'll see. Polley delicately unspools the tapestry of her mothers life through the stories from the friends and family who knew her, capturing the revelatory emotions and reactions without any hint of sensationalism, often through captured home video footage. It's perhaps too matter-of-fact at times, but the real treat is Polley's ability to seamlessly segue between the real and the fictional in her what she shows on screen interspersed with the memories being shared here. Her distorting of memory and fact is so subtle and presented so absorbingly that her ability to manipulate her own personal work and still tell the story she wants becomes even more intriguing as the film progresses. The result is a work of pure genius; deftly adhering to her own families uncertainty of Polley sharing her personal family story in this way, while still maintaining some of that mystery, as well as perhaps inadvertently making a statement on an audience's' willingness to take documentary form at face value. It would be easy to criticise Polley's cold unravelling of the facts here, and that she uses her own family drama as a foil for a grander discussion on the morality of choices, memories, truth and lies. But we all have stories to tell, and everyone comes away with a alternative perspective, which is what makes Stories We Tell such a fascinating journey from start to finish.
    Jason S Super Reviewer
  • Nov 10, 2013
    Quite dull, honestly. Who really cares that the mother had an affair and a child by another man which she passed off as her husband's? I'm sure it happens every day and not really of interest to anyone except the family involved. Certainly not enthralling viewing as the subject of a documentary. Even if it is from Sarah Polley's own life.
    Nicki M Super Reviewer
  • Oct 15, 2013
    A thoughtful, intimate biography concerning one's family from director/actor Sarah Polley, specifically centering around her mother and whether or not her father was in fact her mother's husband. Polley takes a Rashoman-esque stance in how she portrays her family and the stories she has them tell, each sounding mostly familiar but each containing details not included in the other versions. The result is an enamoring documentary about identity, how family shapes us, and how memory holds up over time. It is genuinely surprising how utterly fascinating this movie is, but Polley always maintains the human element that makes this film so special, every answer she is able to get out of her family feels real and human, with members of her family proving to be honest and not afraid to hold very personal details back from the viewer. One of the best films of 2013.
    Dan S Super Reviewer

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