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Stories We Tell

3.6 out of 5 stars 787 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

In this inspired, genre-twisting new film, Oscar(R)-nominated writer/director Sarah Polley discovers that the truth depends on who's telling it. Polley is both filmmaker and detective as she investigates the secrets kept by a family of storytellers. She playfully interviews and interrogates a cast of characters of varying reliability, eliciting refreshingly candid, yet mostly contradictory, answers to the same questions. As each relates their version of the family mythology, present-day recollections shift into nostalgia-tinged glimpses of their mother, who departed too soon, leaving a trail of unanswered questions. Polley unravels the paradoxes to reveal the essence of family: always complicated, warmly messy and fiercely loving. Stories We Tell explores the elusive nature of truth and memory, but at its core is a deeply personal film about how our narratives shape and define us as individuals and families, all interconnecting to paint a profound, funny and poignant picture of the larger human story.

Product Details

  • Format: Multiple Formats, AC-3, Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned)
  • Studio: Lions Gate
  • DVD Release Date: September 3, 2013
  • Run Time: 108 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (787 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00DEKKEPO
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #20,589 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD
STORIES WE TELL is a difficult movie to describe in a way that will make it sound interesting. So I'll focus mostly on what the movie ultimately explores and illuminates in exciting ways...rather than on the mundane sounding "what happened was."

It's a documentary constructed by actress/director Sarah Polley (DAWN OF THE DEAD remake, GO). Essentially, she mixes interviews with family members and friends along with home movie footage, to tell the story of her deceased mother and the secrets she had. Polley is ostensibly searching for her identity (and that's all I'll say)...but the movie has ever so much more on its mind.

First, it is an exploration of how the things that happen to us become the stories we tell to others and that few experiences are really FACTS, but are interpretations of those FACTS or events. While no one differs enormously on the details of the mother's life or other family events...the feelings about those details, the impressions DO differ, in ways subtle or big. For example, when various folks are asked "did you think my mother was afraid of dying?" the answers vary. The FACT is that she did die. But the story becomes either how bravely she faced it, or how she was in denial, or something else. Yet these impressions become facts to the person telling the story, and thus the LISTENER is also influenced.

Second, the movie itself is a fascinating detective story. It's amazing to experience how engrossing this seemingly mundane family story becomes. And to me, not only was the story interesting...but the fact that it WAS interesting says something interesting too. We all have common bonds that we can recognize in each other...that empathy can flow easily when we get to know someone a little bit.
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Format: DVD
The best film I've seen since Capturing the Friedmans over a decade ago. It's a documentary about a woman trying to find out who her father is and who her mother really was. There's genius in this work - it's multi-layered, searingly intelligent, and deeply moving. Most of the audience were sobbing at some point when I saw it. It's a documentary, but by no means a run-of-the-mill one, and it has the power of great drama. It's perhaps the first time I've ever wanted to contact a director and thank her for her work. Do see it.
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Format: DVD
"Stories We Tell" (2012 release from Canada; 108 min.) is the third film from Canadian writer-director Sarah Polley (after "Away From Her" and "Take This Waltz", both excellent). But this is her first documentary, and not just any documentary: this movie looks at the life and times of her parents, and also whether her dad is really her biological father. Her mom Diane comes across as a person who fills the room with energy, whereas her dad Michael is the more introverted type. Nevertheless the two strike up a romance leading to marriage, and eventually kids. Sarah was the third and youngest. At some point in her childhood she is getting teased about not looking like her dad at all, and it becomes sort of a running joke, until it isn't a joke anymore. Sarah eventually decides to investigate the rumors, and gathers all the characters for interviews: her dad (we learn that her mom has passed away many years ago), but also her siblings including two more from a prior marriage that Diane had prior to meeting Michael, and other assorted folks in the theatre and art community in Canada. To tell you much more would surely ruin your viewing experience, you'll just have to see for yourself how it all turns out, but if you have seen the trailer for the movie (which I had) and wonder "was it Tom, or Wayne, or Jeff?", you will be surprised with how it all turns out!

Several comments: first and foremost, this movie shows once again that if you have a strong story to tell, you don't a superhero or specical effects to keep the movie going. I couldn't believe how quickly the time passed. Second, this is a deeply personal movie obviously and yet it resonates with a broader audience because of the universal themes of love, family, and acceptance.
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Format: DVD
Sarah Polley, a 34-year-old Canadian movie director, delves into a dark family secret in this mesmerising blend of straight documentary and feature film. At the start she says her family had one of the first hand held cine cameras, and this statement appears to explain all the flickering coloured shots of various scenes such as weddings, children playing in the garden etc. It's only half way through that you stop and think "Hang on, how could this particular scene have made it into the family's archive of Super 8 fim?" and then you realise actors have to be involved and then you question whether any of the home movie scenes are real. I don't want to give away too much of the plot, because this is a really thought-provoking work which knocks you off balance in a subtle way. At one point Polley's father tells her she is merciless and I must agree she comes across as more of an inquisitor than a daughter. I only managed to see this once before I had to return it to the rental store and really wish I had watched it a second time. Highly, highly recommended.
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I am curious, too. It seems it will only be released on DVD. Bummer. I will still buy it because it is an amazing, moving film, but it deserves a high-definition physical release.
Aug 20, 2013 by D. H. |  See all 2 posts
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