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Movie Review: Stories We Tell

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In Stories We Tell, director, Sarah Polley interviews her family and friends to learn more about her mother, Diane, who died of cancer when Sarah was eleven years old. Polley plays cinematic detective, drawing forth stories from each subject and tracking down information about Diane's roles as wife, mother, and actor. Through these stories, a portrait develops of a charming, vivacious, hummingbird of a woman with an infectious laugh and personality. As the interviews ripple beyond Sarah's relatives to friends and acquaintances, a mysterious side of Diane also surfaces. What is the real "truth" about Diane?

Just as you can never really see yourself from the back, you can never really see the truth. Others might tell you what you look like, and you can see yourself in mirrors, but a constant 360 is never possible, and that is simply how life manifests itself--especially when trying to understand the truth about someone else's reality. In searching to understand her mother, Sarah Polley reveals to herself, and to us, that every family has secrets, and that no matter how deep we dig, the truth of whatever is unearthed is always subject to interpretation.

Stories We Tell could easily have been derailed by bad writing and editing, but this hybrid gem of a docu-film with its blend of period re-enactments and home movies,  its one-on-one sessions and studio-recorded text, has been reigned in so that only the beauty of family brilliantly shines through, complete with occlusions, passion, and clarity. A marvellous contribution to cinema.


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