Stories We Tell–Movie Review

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3 Stars

Stories We Tell posterI went to see Stories We Tell (IMDB) without knowing much about it, based on some enthusiastic critical reviews. In the end I found it interesting but not really outstanding.

This is a documentary by Sarah Polley, a Canadian actress and filmmaker, about her family. In particular it is about her mother Diane Polley, an actress and casting director who died when Sarah was 11. Various members of the Polley family and people who knew Diane are interviewed. Diane herself is portrayed by Rebecca Jenkins in grainy Super-8 footage resembling home movies.

Based on the hype I was expecting something like Rashomon with different people telling wildly different versions of the story. Although the interviewees have have their own points of view they really don’t disagree on very much.

Everyone agrees that Diane was a amazing person. Obviously she was charismatic and fun to be with. Everybody loved her. It also seems clear to me that she was rather narcissistic and self-absorbed. (I hate to say that about someone’s dead mother, but that’s the impression the movie leaves.)

The members of the Polley family may be a bit smarter and more accomplished than average but on the whole this seems a pretty average family, neither horrible nor exemplary. I wonder how much of the critical acclaim has to do with the fact that this is a show business family (even if the members aren’t particularly famous.) To movie reviewers anything to do with the industry takes on a special significance. Would they have found the documentary equally enthralling and though-provoking if it contained the same amount of human drama but was about a family of accountants?