PG-13 (thematic elements involving sexuality, brief strong language, smoking); 108 min.
Everywhere in the culture, theres another monologuist or filmmaker placing herself at the center of a question, or a series of questions: Whats up with my family? How did I get here? How can one charismatic family member hold so many secrets?
Sarah Polleys remarkable Stories We Tell transcends every cliche in this confessional/investigatory genre, and its one of the years highlights. The Canadian director ( Away From Her, Take This Waltz), also known as a truth-seeking actress, begins by interviewing her sisters, brothers and half-siblings about Polleys late mother, Diane.
A fun person at parties, recalls one sibling, Mark. She was the type, he says, who made the record skip as she entered a room, generating a whirlwind of boisterous vivacity.
Dianes marriage to Polleys father, Michael, a sometime professional actor, was a love mismatch. She was intensely social; he was emotionally isolated and unwilling to give her what she needed. Diane and Michael met in 1965 when he was doing the North American premiere of Harold Pinters The Caretaker. Offstage, Polleys father a heavy smoker seen in Stories We Tell recording his own memories and narration bits in the studio with his director daughter retreated into those Pinter pauses.
The family joke, recounted by several of Polleys family members in the essayistic documentary, was that red-haired Sarah mustve been fathered by someone other than the man she called Dad. The jest stuck. And then it wasnt a joke anymore. As Polleys film follows what she learned about her parentage, as well as her mothers hidden life, Stories We Tell fans out to cover a brilliant and touching variety of memories, viewpoints and feelings about whats important in life, in marriage, in love.
Exclusive: Landmark Magnolia, Dallas
Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune