Register  |   Log In  |  
Sign up to our weekly newsletter    
Search   
Empire Magazine and iPad
Follow Me on Pinterest YouTube Tumblr
Empire
Trending On Empire
Empire's New Tom Cruise Cover
The Jameson Empire Awards 2014
Vote: The Greatest 301 Movies Of All Time!
Rebecca Hall:
My Movie Life

The actress picks the movies that shaped her
Mountain Dew Green Screen
Register Now to see X-MEN First Class!
Reviews
STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

FILM DETAILS
Certificate
12A
Cast
Sarah Polley
Michael Polley
Harry Gulkin
Rebecca Jenkins.
Directors
Sarah Polley.
Screenwriters
Sarah Polley.
Running Time
108 minutes

LATEST FILM REVIEWS
Looking For Light: Jane Brown
3 Star Empire Rating
Informant, The
2 Star Empire Rating
Exhibition
4 Star Empire Rating
Rebel Without A Cause
5 Star Empire Rating
Magic Magic
3 Star Empire Rating



5 STAR REVIEWS
Rebel Without A Cause
5 Star Empire Rating
Calvary
5 Star Empire Rating
Wake In Fright
5 Star Empire Rating
Stranger By The Lake
5 Star Empire Rating
Whatever Happened To Baby Jane?
5 Star Empire Rating

Stories We Tell
All about my mother. And father. And...


submit to reddit


Plot
Filmmaker Sarah Polley is compelled to explore her own family past, with the help of her own family.


Review
Stories We Tell

It begins with a voiceover, someone quoting Margaret Atwood, an elderly Englishman’s voice: “When you’re in the middle of a story, it isn’t a story at all, it’s a confusion.” We then see Sarah Polley — Canadian actress and director (Away From Her, Take This Waltz) — walking the puffing narrator up a long flight of stairs and into a recording studio. Meanwhile, a montage shows other as-yet-unnamed interview subjects mic-ing up in a variety of domestic settings (except one, in black and white, a blonde from a Mad Men past). They converse and joke with Polley. You sense nervousness, but also familiarity. Who are these people? A confusion indeed.

The silver-haired English gent, revealed as Polley’s dad, is just as nonplussed. “It isn’t the normal way of doing it,” he notes of her two-camera technique. Another of the interviewees, now clearly a close relative urged by Polley to “tell the whole story”, wonders: “Who fuckin’ cares about our family?” You might wonder the same. By the end of Stories We Tell, though, the answer is obvious: you do, and everybody should. The ‘spoiler-sensitive’ documentary is becoming a common occurrence, and not an unwelcome one (The Imposter, Searching For Sugarman). The same is true of Stories We Tell.

As the title suggests, it is a film about narrative. It is also a film about memory and family and secrets and love. In one sense, it is a true-life origin story. It is a mystery, too, best enjoyed from that starting point of pure confusion. Using interviews, archive footage and what can only be reconstructions of recent events starring herself and her interviewees, Polley resolutely dives into a personal, but shared, past where fact and recollection blur. She pulls rugs out from under our feet as she had them pulled out from under her own. Then, like an intrepid archaeologist who has found unexpected treasure in their own backyard, she digs in again and searches deeper.

It is a fascinating journey, impeccably crafted. It takes you from fearing you’ve blundered into someone’s home movie to realising you are in fact watching something truly unique and universal. The littlest myths, it turns out, can reveal the biggest truths.
 


Verdict
Polley’s fearless personal journey is a huge achievement, a genuine revelation — but the less detail you know beforehand, the better. Go in cold, come out warmed.


Reviewed by Dan Jolin

Write Your Review
To write your review please login or register.

Your Reviews

Average user rating for Stories We Tell
Empire Star Rating

Self indulgent tosh

A young girl's vanity project that somehow made it to the big screen ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by david hayes at 21:58, 07 November 2013 | Report This Post


Stores We Tell

Showing a level of talent at an early age, Canadian actress Sarah Polley has, in recent years, a talent at directing with her Oscar-nominated Away from Her and the brilliant relationship-complex drama Take This Waltz. For her third directorial feature, she goes in a more personal direction by documenting her family which had a very secretive past, specifically surrounding her late mother Diane. With a title like Stories We Tell, narrative is one of the central themes of the piece as Polley... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by R W at 18:02, 28 June 2013 | Report This Post



CURRENT HIGHLIGHTS
Who’s In Spider-Man’s Sinister Six?
A bluffer’s guide to the planned spin-off from the Amazing Spider-films

14 YouTube Videos Every Game Of Thrones Fan Should Have Watched By Now
From goats singing the theme tune to every death in under three minutes

Hollywood's Biggest Names On Their Favourite Films
Stars and directors like Nolan, Whedon, Wright and Ford on the films that inspire them

The Remake Report: Hollywood's Do-Overs Coming Our Way
The redoes, remakes, reboots, reworkings and reimaginings headed our way…

The Nebraska Playlist
Alexander Payne programmes a movie marathon for us

John Michael McDonagh Talks Calvary
The director on his follow-up to The Guard

More Found Footage: Another 25 Trailers That Tease Missing Scenes
Further sequences that disappeared between promo and final cut

Subscribe to Empire iPad edition
Get The Empire iPad Edition Today

Subscribe and save money on annual digital subscription

Subscribe today
Buy single issues

Subscribe to Empire magazine
Get Limited Edition Collectable X-Men Art Cards

Subscribe today and get 6 issues of Empire plus a set of collectable X-Men Art Cards for only £20!

Subscribe today

Get 12 Issues Of Empire For Just £25
Receive limited edition subscribers-only covers every month Subscribe today!
Empire's Film Studies 101 Series
Everything you ever wanted to know about filmmaking but were afraid to ask...
The Empire iPad Edition
With exclusive extras, interactive features, trailers and much more! Download now
Home  |  News  |  Blogs  |  Reviews  |  Future Films  |  Features  |  Interviews  |  Images  |  Competitions  |  Forum  |  iPad  |  Podcast  |  Magazine Contact Us  |  Empire FAQ  |  Subscribe To Empire  |  Register
© Bauer Consumer Media Ltd  |  Legal Info  |  Privacy Policy  |  Bauer Entertainment Network
Bauer Consumer Media Ltd (company number 01176085 and registered address 1 Lincoln Court, Lincoln Road, Peterborough, England PE1 2RF)