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4.1 out of 5 stars
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4.1 out of 5 stars
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 11 November 2013
"Stories We Tell" (2012 release from Canada; 108 min.) is the third film from Canadian writer-director Sarah Polley (after "Away From Her" and "Take This Waltz", both excellent). But this is her first documentary, and not just any documentary: this movie looks at the life and times of her parents, and also whether her dad is really her biological father. Her mom Diane comes across as a person who fills the room with energy, whereas her dad Michael is the more introverted type. Nevertheless the two strike up a romance leading to marriage, and eventually kids. Sarah was the third and youngest. At some point in her childhood she is getting teased about not looking like her dad at all, and it becomes sort of a running joke, until it isn't a joke anymore. Sarah eventually decides to investigate the rumors, and gathers all the characters for interviews: her dad (we learn that her mom has passed away many years ago), but also her siblings including two more from a prior marriage that Diane had prior to meeting Michael, and other assorted folks in the theatre and art community in Canada. To tell you much more would surely ruin your viewing experience, you'll just have to see for yourself how it all turns out, but if you have seen the trailer for the movie (which I had) and wonder "was it Tom, or Wayne, or Jeff?", you will be surprised with how it all turns out!

Several comments: first and foremost, this movie shows once again that if you have a strong story to tell, you don't a superhero or specical effects to keep the movie going. I couldn't believe how quickly the time passed. Second, this is a deeply personal movie obviously and yet it resonates with a broader audience because of the universal themes of love, family, and acceptance. Third, I was amazed at the wealth of home movies that were used in the movie, only later to find out that many of them were reenactments filmed on 8mm film. I generally do not like reenactments in documentaries but here it workes because, frankly, I didn't realize for most of the movie that they were reenactments. That aside, most telling is a scene late in the documentary where someone asks Sarrah directly why she is making this movie in this particular way, and she explains how different people see different truths of the same events and hence she brought it from a multi-person perspective. (This is clearly not to the liking of one of the main characters... whatch why!)

Bottom line: this is another great movie from Sarah Polley. The screening at my local art-house theatre back in June here in Cincinnati where I saw this, was very well attended for a late afternoon showing. If you love documentaries, you cannot go wrong with this. "Stories We Tell" is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
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What have we here, I thought, as the film started. It started out as a film about the mother Diane Polley and grew from there. It is a remarkable story of a family, but at the same time one that seems familiar.

Sarah Polley, the director and documentarian, ells her story as do the rest of the participants in this film. Each person has an interpretation that is slightly different from the others, but the stories from all of them give us much of the truth. The Storytellers as Sarah calls them include her older sisters, Susy and Joanna, and her older brothers, John and Mark, and other important people in her mother's past. Her father, Michael Polley, is an actor as well. 'Stories We Tell' begins with her father in a recording booth, narrating the film, which he wrote.

She asks each person to "tell the story from the beginning until now." Sarah adds old photographs and old movies. This is a film about a family, and in particular, the mother, Diane. But to tell more would be to give away the secrets that bind this family and film together. I found Sarah Polley to be bright and articulate, the story she tells is fascinating and engaging. Would love to know the follow up a couple if years now that the film has been shown world wide.

Recommended. prisrob 06-13-14
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on 12 August 2013
The best film I've seen since Capturing the Friedmans over a decade ago. There's genius in this work - it's multi-layered, searingly intelligent, and deeply moving. Most of the audience were sobbing at some point when I saw it. It's a documentary, but by no means a run-of-the-mill one, and it has the power of great drama. It's perhaps the first time I've ever wanted to contact a director and thank her for her work. Do see it.
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on 21 September 2013
I was expecting less and I can tell I loved this movie! Really liked the way the story was told - I liked everything about it! It got me emotional and gained a massive respect for those people talking about their lives in this way. Amazing people, amazing story! Well done!!
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on 29 March 2016
Brilliant film, a moving account of one family's experience of love, loss, and what it means to be human. The film is not like any other documentary I've seen before, using re-enactments from each interviewees' perspective to try and get to the truth. It is also a film about the nature of art, it's purpose, and how we tell ourselves (and others) stories to make sense of the world. Highly recommended.
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on 21 May 2014
This was an interesting and different documentary/movie though a little long winded.
A true story seen through the eyes of different members of the family.
My daughters enjoyed it, my partner (male) fell asleep.
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on 14 September 2014
This was totally brilliant and magical. Sarah Polley is a genius and observant of family dynamics and the complexities involved that are hidden below the surface. Her film Take This Waltz was also a Masterpiece. Her quiet and thoughtful intelligence shines through every shot and every spoken word. This film is mesmerizing. It should get an award for sure.
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on 8 April 2014
This is a really excellent idea and it's been beautifully realised. It's warm, honest and engaging family piece. At first the '8mm' handheld material looks real until you realise it's been cleverly cast and made up to appear old. I loved this film and Sarah Polley has every right to be very proud of her creation. Thoroughly recommended.
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on 11 January 2014
This was a great unravelling of a family story, but I was slightly distracted by the mix of actual old footage, and the addition of modern re-enactment. By the cast list at the end, I gathered that there was a lot of re-enactment throughout. Still a good story.
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on 4 January 2014
Brilliant, brave and proof again that real life stories are profoundly more engaging than even the best Hollywood fiction. Bravo Sarah Polley, thanks for sharing your story in such an imaginative and inclusive fashion.
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