At first blush, Sarah Polley’s Stories We Tell seems like a rather self-indulgent project. It’s about the director’s mother—a beautiful, talented, but quixotic woman, an actress, who died of cancer, and left many questions in her wake.
But it’s actually about so many things: It’s about families, in general, and how they inexorably shape our lives. It’s about perspective, and how the same story can morph and shift when told from different angles. It’s about the small lies we tell ourselves, the rationalizations, and the importance of self-mythologizing. And, for you cinephiles out there, it’s a deconstruction of the process of making a documentary film.
Polley, the pretty, but sad-eyed Canadian actress, had already made two exciting narrative films. Her Away From Her, about the painful slow descent of Alzheimer’s, was justifiably critically acclaimed. Her Take This Waltz—a wistful, insightful, sexy film about female desire—was well-received but deserved even more kudos (it made my Top 20 of last year—and probably should’ve been higher).
But with this film, I think she has announced herself as one of the most important young filmmakers working today. Polley...