Movie Review - Stories We Tell

Sarah Polley's documentary begins with video showing her setting up her subjects and even prepping them for the long interview. All of this I felt was unnecessary.

This movie is all about Polley's mother Diane who has since passed away. Yet, her husband Michael shot plenty of Super 8 film of her. Polley replays that film but without sound. Her interviews include her family members like her brothers and sisters, and a few of them describe perfectly what's happening in the film footage. It seemed odd that Polley simply didn't show the footage and let us hear it, not have people dictate what's happening.

The movie is about Diane and the various men in her life, which led to some confusion about who Polley's father is. The movie is a veiled attempt to search for Polley's father. There are potential candidates that obviously a DNA test would settle. Instead, Polley's search is limited to talking to the men and various family members in a rabbit hole of contradicting interpretation.

There are some interesting factoids about Diane's life that come out that are worthy of note. When Diane was pregnant with Polley, she nearly had an abortion. Diane's experience took on a reverse Mamma Mia! reality. Michael was not Diane's first husband. Diane left her first husband, George, to be with Michael, only later to have an affair on him. George is the father of Polley's gay brother Johnny and as a result, Diane lost custody of Johnny and her other kids in a court case that was rather unprecedented at the time.

What I didn't like is Polley's technique here. Aside from her treatment of the Super 8 footage, which may or may not have had audio recorded with it, in her interviews of her family, it becomes extremely odd that she has them tell her things that she previously told them. There's even a scene where Polley met Harry Gulkin, a former lover of Diane and a potential father for Polley. In that scene, we don't hear audio of what's said. After a point, the words coming out of Polley and Gulkin's mouths are cut in lieu of narration, and that frustrated me.

Two Stars out of Five.
Rated PG-13 for thematic elements involving sexuality, brief strong language and smoking.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 48 mins.


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