Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Stories We Tell

Written and directed by Sarah Polley, Stories We Tell is a film about Polley’s family and the revelations about her life as it’s told in a documentary style with some dramatic recreations. The film is a look into Polley in her own life as she talks to her own siblings about their parents as well as things in their life with Rebecca Jenkins playing Polley’s mother in dramatic recreated scenes. The result is an astonishing and evocative film from Sarah Polley.

In 2007, Sarah Polley learned a major revelation about her life as well as about her late mother who died when Polley was only 11. The news of this shocking news about who she is forces her to piece things not just about her whole family life that included four half-siblings but also people who knew her mother. During the course of the film, Polley would learn about her mother’s life that included two marriages with her second and final marriage to David Polley who would narrate the film as he’s seen in a recording booth with Sarah watching in a different room in seeing her father read bits of his memoir. Even as she would film her father, her siblings, and others in the filming as she knew she had to create some idea of what her mother’s life was like since she only had pictures and recollections from others about that time in her life before she was even born.

With the aid of cinematographer Iris Ng, production designer Lea Carlson, set decorator David Gruer, costume designer Sarah Armstrong, and casting directors John Buchan and Jason Knight, Polley would use Super 8 camera footage to create these fictionalized home movies with actors such as Rebecca Jenkins playing her mother while other actors such as Peter Evans playing David Polley and Alex Hatz playing the role of Harry Gulkin who is crucial to the story as he is also interviewed as it relates to the big reveal. Much of the Super 8 footage is presented as a silent film of sorts to capture an idea of what life was like with Diane Polley who had been through a lot including a terrible first marriage as her divorce was considered scandalous for a time in Canada.

Even as she lost custody of her two kids in John and Susy though meeting David Polley proved to be fulfilling as she would get Mark and Joanna before this bump in 1978 when she and David hit a rough patch. When Diane took an acting gig for a theater show in Montreal is where things start to occur though she eventually stayed with David till her death in 1990 on the week of Sarah’s eleventh birthday. The stories about Diane’s time in Montreal would raise a lot of questions as it relates to Harry Gulkin as well as another man she met during that time though she still loved David. These revelations weren’t just devastating to Sarah but also her siblings who had a sense that something was going on yet Sarah was more concerned about her father and what he would think. Even when news was to emerge as Sarah had to beg on the phone during the production of Mr. Nobody to not have this story go public.

Editor Mike Munn would collect some of the photos and footage that Sarah would recreate to play into the story as some of it include elements of montages and such. Sound editor David Rose would capture a lot of the audio to help play into the dramatization and the narration of David Polley. The film’s music by Jonathan Goldsmith is largely low-key in its plaintive and somber piano-based score as it play into the drama while much of the music is a mixture of folk, classical, and traditional music with a cut by Bon Iver that play into drama and sense of loss.

Stories We Tell is a tremendous film from Sarah Polley. It’s a film that explores the idea of family and identity as well as the many versions of the truth about someone that is no longer around. Even as it forces people to see that there’s still so much to tell while learning more about themselves and the people around them. In the end, Stories We Tell is a magnificent film from Sarah Polley.

Sarah Polley Films: Away from Her - Take This Waltz - Women Talking

© thevoid99 2018


keith71_98 said...

I've been interested in seeing this but for some ridiculous reason it always slips my mind. I really want to give it a look.

Alex Withrow said...

Great review. This is a fine film and it is a good reminder that Sarah Polley should be given the opportunity to make more films.

thevoid99 said...

@keith71_98-See it whenever you get the chance. It was on ePiX and I had to record the damn movie.

@Alex-Thank you. It was better than I thought it would be as I await for whatever she's doing next as a filmmaker.

Anonymous said...

Polley is a very good director in my opinion. She really gets to the centre of emotions in her movies and the complexity of them.

thevoid99 said...

@vinnieh-Indeed she is. I'll await for whatever else she does next.