Sarah Polley - Stories We Tell


Through the next few months, I want to take a moment now and then to share some thoughts on the films I feel represent the best of what we’ve seen in cinema now that the decade is half over. This marks the first entry in the series – RM

I first found myself curious about documentaries in late 2002, and my interest in the medium really took hold in the spring of 2010. While that was late in the game for me to be arriving at an entire genre, I can’t help but feel this is what it must have been like for someone to be first getting into reading during the 1920’s…or first getting into rock & roll during the mid 1970’s.

The medium of documentary seems to be pushing its boundaries further and further every year, and the last five years have been an especially exciting time…perhaps embodied best by Sarah Polley’s STORIES WE TELL.

We’ve arrived at a time and place where every detail of every life is chronicled. Nobody is making us do this; we’re doing it ourselves. Every party we attend, every vacation we take, every gift we get, every person we fuck. And yet, even though we are telling the stories of our lives second-by-second, we still can’t see through the static. What seems like “our stories” are really just noise because it’s impossible to tell our story as it’s happening.

What’s more, all that noise makes it possible to slip a secret or two through the cracks.

So when a film centres upon a secret at the centre of someone’s life, and finds a way to expound it into the very nature of what “our life stories” are, what we get is something very special. This film very easily could have been a written essay, or a Facebook post on Polley’s wall. However, by making it the collective telling of her family’s history, she creates a documentary filled with warmth, vulnerability, and genuine beauty. What would ordinarily be a closely guarded family secret, is exposed for the world to consume.

This might not be the sort of groundbreaking film one thinks about when they consider The Best Documentaries of All Time, nor necessarily one that comes to mind when one thinks about the decade at-the-half. For me though, the experience of examining the very nature of a narrative has seldom been told with as much grace as Polley and her family bring to STORIES WE TELL.


Click below for my original review of STORIES WE TELL, and feel free to leave comments with your thoughts on this film and its place in the decade so far.


stories copy