Actor/director Sarah Polley uncovers the deep, dark secrets of her parents in the new documentary "Stories We Tell." Entertainment Weekly's Owen Gleiberman filed the following report for NY1.
"Stories We Tell" is the third feature by the actress-turned-director Sarah Polley, who made the Julie Christie Alzheimer’s drama "Away From Her." This is easily her best film yet. The movie takes the proposition that reality is more dramatic than fiction and tests it out in a startlingly original, even head-spinning way.
For most of "Stories We Tell," we're watching a documentary of family secrets made in the dark, confessional, into-the-abyss spirit of "Capturing the Friedmans." The film's central figure, though long deceased, is Polley's own mother, Diane, whom we see in Super-8 home-movie footage, and who's described as a free spirit stuck in a life that couldn't contain her.
Her marriage to Michael, a dashing actor she met in 1965 when they were in a play together, cools off pretty fast, and both he and Polley's adult siblings speak candidly of Diane's hidden pleasures and torments: The lovers she took, the kids from an earlier marriage she lost custody of.
The film's big revelation involves not only Diane but Sarah Polley herself. And it has the kick of a mule. Yet even as we're marveling at, and perhaps identifying with, the soap opera twists and hidden emotional depths of so-called ordinary lives, Polley, in "Stories We Tell," is playing a different sort of game. She deconstructs the story she's telling or, rather, she demonstrates how our memories live on as subjective stories, even though the events actually happened.
By the end, the movie has pulled the rug out from under us, demonstrating that even the reality we think we see may be an illusion.