Stories We Tell (4 stars)

Stories We Tell

A warm, brave and thought-provoking piece of autobiography by Sarah Polley

The ‘we’ in question is the family of the filmmaker, Canadian performer, director and Oscar-nominated screenwriter Sarah Polley; the stories being told are the personal and -- as it turns out -- changeable versions of its own history that exist within and around it.

Polley lays bare painful parts of her own history by speaking to family members and friends about her mother, stage actor Diane Polley, who died of cancer when Sarah was a child - and discovering some uncomfortable truths. But the point of the film is not to tearjerk over Sarah’s loss, nor to elicit massively divergent accounts of the secret parts of Diane’s life; more to gently probe the ways in which Diane’s children, widower, friends and lovers have made their own sense of her complicated legacy.

The director herself, as gentle, likable and attractive a presence onscreen here as she is as an actor, is interestingly elusive: there’s no weepy examination of exactly how she feels about all that she’s discovered, leaving viewers space in which to conjecture how they might feel in her place.

Her living family members, meanwhile, are great company - frank, amusing, generous - and the departed Diane emerges as a poignantly charismatic and intriguing figure. This is a warm, brave and thought-provoking piece of autobiography.

Screening at Cineworld, Fri 21 Jun & Filmhouse, Sat 22 Jun, as part of the Edinburgh International Film Festival 2013. Limited release from Fri 28 Jun.

Stories We Tell Trailer

Stories We Tell

  • 4 stars
  • 2012
  • Canada
  • 1h 48min
  • 12A
  • Directed by: Sarah Polley
  • UK release: 28 June 2013

Polley's first documentary looks inwardly at her family life, particularly at her mother who died when Polley was aged 11.