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With: Sarah Polley, Michael Polley, Joanna Polley, Mark Polley, Michael Polley, Harry Gulkin, Tom Butler, Andrew Church, Peter Evans, Justin Goodhand, Alex Hatz, Rebecca Jenkins
Written by: Sarah Polley
Directed by: Sarah Polley
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for thematic elements involving sexuality, brief strong language and smoking
Running Time: 108
Date: 17/05/2013

Stories We Tell (2013)

4 Stars (out of 4)

True 'Stories'

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Fresh from the San Francisco International Film Festival, Sarah Polley's third film as director, Stories We Tell, opens this week. Unlike her previous feature films, the superb Away from Her and Take This Waltz, her new movie is a documentary. But it's not just any documentary. It's a unique, emotional, and surprising ride about a powerful event in Polley's life that is best left for viewers to discover. Rather than facts, however, Polley's film deals with memory, doubt, and a whole host of other tenuous concepts.

As the movie begins, Polley interviews her sister, who poses the very good question, "Who cares about our family?" It's a good question, and the answer is: anyone who has a heart and a brain and likes to hear a good story. In addition to telling her family story, including the death of her mother when she was just 11, Polley includes footage of her father recording narration for the film, images of herself trying to figure out what to do next, and other fascinating ideas. One scene simply has a montage of all her interview subjects taking a moment to compose themselves before the camera. At one point in "Stories We Tell," Polley interviews Harry Gulkin, a Canadian film producer (of the Oscar-nominated Lies My Father Told Me). On camera, Gulkin explains why he thinks Polley's film won't work.

It's difficult to explain just how great I think this film is without talking more about it, and I can't do that without giving away the movie's secrets. What I can say is that the movie is dramatically compelling, journalistically fascinating, cinematically profound, and intellectually challenging. Like the best documentaries, it tears apart the rules of the format and reinvents them. But above all, this is a work of extraordinary bravery for Miss Polley, putting such personal stories and feelings on the screen for all to see and judge. I only hope everyone actually gives it a chance.

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