Monday, December 16, 2013

Movie with Abe: Stories We Tell

Stories We Tell
Directed by Sarah Polley
Released May 10, 2013 / DVD September 3, 2013

There are many different types of documentaries. Some seek to expose a truth about something or bring an issue to a wide audience, while others examine straight events to tell a story. It’s rare that the documentarian includes him or herself in the film, yet that’s the case here. Canadian actress-turned-filmmaker Sarah Polley, who earned an Oscar nomination for penning her first film, the narrative “Away from Her,” utilizes her family of dramatic performers and storytellers to investigate her own roots and the events that shaped her into the person that she is.

“Stories We Tell” starts out with a series of people talking, mostly family members of Polley’s, and the stage being set for a story whose purpose isn’t quite clear. As it progresses, however, its central themes become evident, and the tale of Polley’s mother and her relationship with another man becomes intricately interesting. Polley chooses to have her father utilize his theatrical British voice to read many of the lines of the screenplay for her documentary, often saying other people’s lines but sometimes reiterating his own. It’s a fascinating device that, aside from the story itself, is this film’s strongest asset.

It’s intriguing to hear what all of Polley’s family members have to say about her mother, who died of cancer when she was eleven, and to see her life reconstructed on screen via the accounts and anecdotes of her family and friends. Staying true to her film’s title, Polley even moves into interviewing her subjects about how the finished product will tell a certain story that is specific to her point of view, edited together to represent her version of the truth based on what she heard from a variety of people. It’s a thought-provoking approach that, by the end of the film, proves to be quite well-executed.

Polley seems to have developed a passion for being behind the camera, earning acclaim for her 2007 feature “Away with Her” and directing actress Julie Christie to an Oscar nomination. After another narrative effort, “Take This Waltz,” starring Michelle Williams and Seth Rogen, Polley returns to a more intimate, honest subject matter, one with which she is clearly comfortable. Though she is in essence her part of her film’s subject matter, she remains far removed and lets it play out all around him. Many note that she is a filmmaker to watch, and this documentary illustrates just what she can do.


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