By Don Simpson | March 1, 2013
Director: Sarah Polley
We all tell stories. We all have our own unique perspectives and interpretations of events. There is no absolute Truth. Everything is filtered through the various lenses of our past and present. A thousand people could witness the same event, yet there would be a thousand different versions of the truth. Sure, some facts may remain constant, but no two stories will ever be identical. As I studied documentary and ethnographic filmmaking in graduate school, this was repeatedly engrained in my mind; yet, regardless of the fact that an absolute Truth is unobtainable, filmmakers continue to work in this non-fiction discipline.
Sarah Polley approaches Stories We Tell knowing full well that stories are just that: stories. She gathers her family in front of her camera to compare their recollections of their mother. Polley’s familiar past quickly becomes an open book, the ultimate family drama. Do we learn too much? What and who can we believe? Polley cleverly toys with the notion of utilizing archival footage to heighten our sense of reality, thus playing a few tricks of her own, as if to say: the wool was pulled over my own eyes for so long, so I want you to experience the same sense of confused shock. It is a brilliant facade of reality that Polley creates, one that will leave its audiences’ heads spinning. We are left questioning the entire content of the film, though at the heart of all, there is more god’s honest truth to this film than most non-fiction films.