Monday, May 20, 2013

Stories We Tell

I don't want to say too much about Sarah Polley's "Stories We Tell," because this is a film (she calls it a documentary, though it uses reƫnactments so realistic they look like found home-movie footage) that gets a lot of its power from the surprises in its story. Polley - whom you may know as an actress from "Go" and "The Sweet Hereafter," or as the director of the Julie Christie Alzheimer's movie "Away From Her" - set out to learn more about her mother, Diane, a life-of-the-party Canadian stage actress who died of cancer at a young age. (You get a sense for how interesting the movie will be when one of her children says she always lived life in a very upfront way and one of her friends says she was a woman of secrets.) Polley ended up finding out more than she could have imagined about herself and the men in Diane's life.

"Stories We Tell" reflects both Polley's jealously guarded privacy and a soul-baring openness and honesty. It's a story that seems at first like other people talking about themselves (and we all know how boring that is), but over two hours becomes compelling, even exciting, not to mention deeply moving. What exactly is it - a memoir, a philosophical musing on the nature of truth and perception, even a meta-commentary on documentary along the lines of "Dadetown"? Perhaps a bit of each. What's surprising is how caught up you get in it, how enjoyable and touching it is. You'll leave with a lump in your throat and a lot to talk about - preferably with family - at dinner.

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