Stories We Tell - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Stories We Tell Reviews

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October 24, 2017
The Stories We Tell is a brilliant documentary. I would definitely recommend it.
September 30, 2017
excellent story/doc/narrative. compelling and not predictable in any sense. more Sarah Polley, more!
½ February 27, 2017
All this does is prove how easily manipulated film can be, and should make one question how many lies are pervaded in the documentaries we see. This is a living example of how staged they are.

It's absolutely stunning, awe-inspiring - the science behind this work. I am simply blown away by the level of detail that is gone into creating this farce. The film stock, the casting of such exact facial features, the poses, attitudes in the interviews, style of flashback photography. At the same time, it's boring as fuck. It works so hard at creating this impression that it never stops to ask: is it interesting?

The film feels extremely selfish, and at 1 hr 22 min, the filmmaker reveals just how selfish she is. Poor Harry wants to publish his story on this, but Sarah whines about that not being right. Only her version of the story should be published, only she should capitalize on it, not everyone else.
February 20, 2017
A rate film that tackles big issues (nature of memory, can we know others or even ourselves, the slippery nature of objective truth) in A way that is intellectually stimulating and emotionally poignant.
½ January 12, 2017
I rented this because it was on a list of movies called: best movies of the century, so far. Yea, it was good. I always enjoy movies that have us "talking" about it even when it's over.
January 5, 2017
At first the life story of two little known actors doesn't really capture the imagination, but as the real life narrative develops it does get interesting to hear the personal life story of one family
Super Reviewer
December 23, 2016
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.
June 18, 2016
Pretty entertaining documentary, but I don't know if it really centered around the theme of stories that people tell. Just the lady who slept with more than one man and didn't tell
March 7, 2016
Polley's justification of this film being about memory and story telling, doesn't seem true, as these concepts are barely touched on. Rather what we have is someone trying to control when and how their family story gets out, while honestly she does do well.
½ February 7, 2016
Devastating, loving, haunting, and necessary in a way that only a story about "mother" can be. Polley's humor and gravity are on fully display, and this, along with Away from Her, proves her to be a filmmaker of enviable talent.
January 21, 2016
The novelty of the way this story was told was good and interesting, but the story wasn't actually that good. Felt contrived towards the end.
January 1, 2016
Interesting... I guess.
October 27, 2015
An exceedingly intelligent movie that is a lot more than it seems. It flits between the factual implications of the documentary, and the re-enactments and fake home-videos which are replications of past events. For a while, I was annoyed with the use of the actors which muddied the narrative somewhat, then I realised that was the point.

To be honest, the story itself was kind of dull--but the meticulous editing, and hard-hitting interviewing and strong directing from Sarah Polley make this ultimately compelling.
October 6, 2015
Very creative in the myriad of ways to shoot reenactments. Really enjoyed this family searching for the truth.
September 16, 2015
Even the loneliest man who ever lived had a mother and a father. No matter how superfluous he may have been in later life, he was born somewhere and meant something to someone. That's the great truth of humanity. We all come from the same space; we all come from the same reproductive process. We all exit the birth canal. What happens after that is built, not on the great cosmic luck of the draw, but on the lives led by those who surround us. The circumstances that bring us to the moment of our expulsion into the world can remain a mystery held in the stories told by those who come before us.

As Sarah Polley's deeply intimate documentary "Stories We Tell" gets underway, she sits her father Michael down in front of a microphone to narrate his memoirs. Michael Polley is an actor, known on Canadian television for his role on the series "Slings and Arrows" on which Sarah has had cameo role. Michael Polley, through a craggy English accent, speaks eloquently about the mystery of who he was in the decades before his own birth. "It is clear to me that I was always there," he says, "somewhere in my ancestor's DNA just waiting to be born. So, this unique 'I' has always existed, even in the mystery of nothingness."

The mystery of what happened in Sarah's own "nothingness" is the center of "Stories We Tell," in which she films her family members telling the story of how her mother and father formed a relationship that eventually led to the moment that Sarah would enter their lives. Polley is an actress and a director. You may have seen her in films like "Go" and "The Sweet Hereafter." Recently she's turned to directing films like "Away from Her" and "Take this Waltz." This is her third feature, and just the nature of it says a great deal about her as a director and as a person.

In "Stories We Tell" Polley asks her family (in separate interviews) to tell the whole story of her parent's relationship from the beginning. We hear from Sarah's older sisters Joanna and Susy, and her brothers Mark and John and from people who were critical figures in her mother's life. At first her family seems somewhat startled by this question, but as they talk, they reveal more and more. As youngsters, both Michael and Diane (Sarah's mother) were stage actors who fell in love with one another. The relationship quickly began to cool under the imbalance of affection (he loved her more than she loved him.)

We learn a great deal about Diane. She died of cancer in 1990 when Sarah was still a child, and it is Diane's story that makes up most of the narrative. Through stories and old home movies, we meet Diane as a person who was a free-spirit, someone for whom life seemed to be a free-wheeling carnival. She was never fit for a family, a husband, children, a home, school. She wasn't irresponsible, but we come to understand that she just wasn't designed for our definition of a "normal" life.

Midway through the film something is revealed about Diane that won't be revealed here. One of the great things about "Stories We Tell" is that as Sarah's family tells more and more stories about Michael and Diane, more and more layers begin to peel back. We learn things about Diane that even Sarah doesn't seem to know. Then at about the mid-point of the film, it turns into something else. Sarah discovers an entirely new section of her family that she never knew. How she reacts is simply incredible. More on that cannot be revealed without spoilers.

Traditional documentaries lead us to believe that the movie is just going to be a series of talking heads. For the most part we're right, but Polley experiments with narrative structures that give the revelations more emotional punch then we might have expected. The interviews are very intimate and no two are ever the same. Through the stories, Diane becomes a complex individual and the movie cross-cuts to examine Sarah's life and how it has affected her.

By the end, we feel that we've come to know Diane. She was a woman who felt trapped. She didn't see her life tied down to a family, but she became trapped by them. That may sound like a tired cliché but as Polley digs further and further, she unearths truths the break the traditional narrative wide open. Stories told over and over have a way of pulling the diamonds from the rough, of covering the negatives with positives. Polley reveals her mother's positive and negative and allows us to see her as a human being. She was a person who was complex and deep. She was joyful and yet sad. This is the story of the strange bonds of family and the overwhelming ripple effects of the secrets we keep.
½ September 12, 2015
I gotta say that this film is really well made; the direction makes you somehow interested in a story which, frankly, is very ordinary. I am a bit baffled by the truth behind the characters though, were they actors or not? the cast listing at the end suggest that some may have been, or perhaps that was just for the old footage; I'm not really sure.
½ August 22, 2015
I suppose not every question should be answered and not every documentary released to the public....but i am deeply intrigued with Sarah Polley and her intellectual approach to documentary film making...she is a talented story teller who doesn't shy away from controversial and personal material. In the end we can see it is our imperfections which make us Human...and not every family can be the Brady Bunch. 3.5 Stars
August 3, 2015
The film is very original and touching. the description says that its documentary but for the beginning you may doubt is it really or not. The director's compassion and curiosity marks her as both a heartfelt and unforgiving filmmaker.
June 15, 2015
Sarah Polley's Stories We Tell is a rare kind of film that is deeply personal, but also manages to find something universal in a family's secrets. Using a variety of different filming techniques from old documentary standbys like talking heads and archival footage to less conventional ones from the world of fiction, Polley weaves an intricate tale that explores the past, memories and the stories we tell.
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