Director-screenwriter Sarah Polley (pictured) (Away from Her (2006) and Take This Waltz (2011)) has taken her family and friend’s memories to create one of the best pieces of cinema this decade has to offer. Beginning with introducing Sarah’s own brothers, sisters, father, and family friends, we are told a detailed and emotional story about Sarah’s mother from different perspectives.
As we all know, everyone remembers stories differently. Depending on circumstances, previous experiences, and whether or not you’ve had your morning coffee, differing variables and motivations cause us to remember our experiences slightly different from others. However, when a story has one big secret that stays dormant for decades, some memories and details emerge while others begin to fade.
In Stories We Tell, the focus of the story surrounds Diane, Sarah’s mother. From each sibling we receive their loving recollection of their mother. They discuss in detail her energetic laugh, vivacious dancing, and larger-than-life persona. We also receive a recollection from Diane’s friends and how they remember her as sporadic, unorganized, and lonely. Mostly narrated by Sarah’s father, Michael, we also begin to realize the story being told and receive a first-hand taste on how to take life into perspective. That sometimes events happen because of the way you choose to live your life.
As the minutes begin to peel away, layer upon layer of the story begins to emerge. Family friends turn out to be not just friends, brother and sisters turn out to be only half blood. Certain fond memories from childhood are fully explained, realized, and needing to be dealt with in a very adult manner. To tell any more would be to ruin a special viewing from such a great story – a story to be told by Sarah, not me.
To simply state that this story needs to be told to a large audience would simplify the story’s message. In essence, the film allows the viewer to instill their own childhood memories to determine what is real and who to trust. Even though evidence suggests a fact is 99.9997% indisputable, the memories and how you proceed is ultimately up to you.