The best thing, worst thing, and main thing about the documentary “Stories We Tell” in about the time it takes to watch the trailer!
In modern documentaries, the documentarian has to decide whether to play into the story or stay out of it, but what if the documentarian is the story?
“The Stories We Tell” is a documentary by Canadian actress Sarah Polley about what happens when families like hers take a look at their own story and how those narratives shift and evolve through time and place. I would say more, except part of the beauty of this story is how it reveals itself through those who experienced it and I think to give any of it away could shade the experience.
Have you ever listened to This American Life? This movie reminded me of a long form film version of something you might hear on “This American Life”. The way the author always seems to play an intricate role in not just the delivery of the information but also the story itself. In this case, Sarah Polley blurs that line between being the interviewer and the interviewee, even allowing the family members she talks to to turn the questions on her at moments during the journey. Speaking of which I loved the way she highlights her family in this, in fact, lets just call it the best thing. She includes moments of these interviews that would usually be the first on the cutting room floor, the set ups, the pauses, allowing the edges of the storytelling process to emphasize exactly what telling a story is all about. I also wanted to mention that her father, whose role in the center of this tale is only secondary to her own, fills in his side of the story through some truly exquisite writing that I loved hearing and was a highlight of the film.
As far as a “Worst Thing”, well, despite the beauty in the way the story unfolds, the story itself can kind of feel blah at times. It’s a testament to Polley and her crew that this movie is as engaging as it is, because really at the center of it is a very common and basic tale. The result of this is that in those moments where the creativity of the composition has faded a bit the movie loses some steam and feels a tad pedestrian.
Yet “The Stories We Tell” is still worth checking out. Even though the story itself might not be earth shaking, the way it’s presented is beautiful and captivating and brings light to the ways each of us use our own angles to tell the stories of our lives. I give it a solid B.
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