This post is a couple of weeks overdue, but Sarah Polley’s Stories We Tell is a movie that really stuck with me, so I fell like I can still write this post belatedly.
A little background, if you don’t know, my all-time favorite movie is Terry Gilliam’s The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, starring a very young Sarah Polley. And as a kid I was hooked on Road to Avonlea, so I was a big fan long before she grew up and made her own movies. That said, I didn’t see Away From Her cause it looked depressing as fuck, and I’m sorry, but if you’ve dealt with Alzheimer’s or dementia at all in real life, you don’t need to ever watch a movie about it. Anyway, all that aside, I didn’t know anything about Stories We Tell before going into it. I actually didn’t even know it existed; my friend Henry picked it so we went.
And I totally missed the whole beginning of the movie. I think I perhaps tried to fit in a pre-movie previews nap without success. So I woke up to some confusion as to what was going on, which was thankfully quickly alleviated. When I awoke, Polley was interviewing her dad and I went, “Ohhhh, this is a documentary!” And not just a documentary, but one about her own family and her mother in particular. And over the course of the movie, Polley interviews her father, her four much older siblings and friends of the family and her mother’s, and what unfolds is a discovery about the truth of this time her mom left the family in Toronto and went to Montreal (to act in a play called Toronto, of all things) and the affair that lead to Sarah herself.
Big Spoilers, cause the huge twist of the movie is you spend the whole time between interviews watching what you’re meant to believe is home movie footage of the Polley family and Mama Polley’s time in Montreal. But as the movie resolves itself and Sarah’s reasons for making it are discussed, it’s revealed that none of it was actual footage at all, and it was actors portraying her mother, family and friends all along. And even though you spend the whole film wondering how they could have possibly had all of this footage and footage for every event discussed practically, you still believed it because the actress playing her mother looked so much like Sarah Polley herself and the little girl playing her too, especially already knowing what she looked like when she was young.
What really struck me about this movie was her in depth search into her own history and piecing together the truth from the different versions of the story each person would tell. It’s something I’ve done in my own life to a MUCH lesser extent, but in terms of my parents’ marriage, divorce and subsequent huge falling out and how it ties into my father’s remarriage. I don’t think I would ever want as much truth as Polley has delved into, but it’s a different situation entirely. Still I find it really interesting.
All that said, I totally fell asleep at the end of the movie too. And yet, I really didn’t feel like I missed much at all. And I was alive for the post-credits scene, which was ace.
2/5 Sleeping Pants