Stories We Tell
On the surface, Stories We Tell looks like a highly personal documentary about the director's attempts to document her family's dirty little secret. And it is. But if you look below the surface, you see more than just the intrigue of the mother's affair with Harry and the secrets. The director, Sarah Polley, grew up believing her biological father was the man who was married to her mother. But is that really true? What began as a family joke grew out of proportion, and Sarah began to question her mother's friends to discover the truth. And what she found was surprising.
Stories We Tell is as much a look at storytelling as it is anything else. Everyone remembers the exact same event differently because we all focus on different details, and this film highlights this aspect better than anything else I can think of. Sure, it's not clear whose version is the truth since they all vary, but that's the point. Despite the airing of family secrets, there's still a very solid mixture of humor and emotional moments, and those sometimes occur simultaneously. Despite all of that, the audience is given a lot of what I consider to be very private information about Sarah's family.
The unconventionality of this documentary continues. The spine of this film is the narration of a letter written by the man Sarah believed to be her biological father, read and filmed in the recording studio. Stories We Tell is a mixture of home videos collected from the family and friends, interview footage, and recreated footage. Interestingly, it's difficult to differentiate the recreated footage from the home video footage because it is so meticulously made. People look at the camera; the same shots are used repeatedly. The amount of attention paid to those details is quite impressive.