I don’t want to reveal too much about Sarah Polley’s new documentary, Stories We Tell. Giving away the story would be cheating you of the beautiful and penetrating way Polley unfolds it, minute by minute, person by person.
I will tell you that I was weeping by the end. I will tell you that while watching it I thought of my own mother and father. I thought about my mom’s death exactly three months ago today, about how much I love my dad and sister. Regret that I didn’t make that artist documentary my mom always wanted me to make about her. Desire for anyone’s stories about my mom, for any perspectives and revelations about things I know and things I don’t. I will tell you that this is the best documentary I’ve seen this year– possibly the best family documentary I’ve ever encountered. And I’ll tell you that you must see it.
Guy Madden’s My Winnipeg comes to my mind. Not because the two are at all alike, but something in the falling snow, and Canada, and mothers, and telling stories. Reconstructing the past.
When people ask me what I do, I often respond that I am a storyteller. Because all the things that are my vocations can be boiled down to that. Sarah Polley raises questions about the act of storytelling itself, such as, why do we feel the need to tell our stories? Every family has its own history, and most are never told or shared with a wider audience. Does it change things to have that story told, rather than keeping it private? Does the mirror of an audience make it less somehow, or does the risk of sharing it make it deeper, allowing the rest of us to connect, to see our own narratives and secrets reflected? The openness of Polley and her family inspires me. The same way as when I see deep, shinning truths in any art form– the artist generously opens her heart to us, allowing herself to be vulnerable to the audience’s reaction, whatever that may be.
Stories We Tell is playing at Images Cinema Friday 7/19 – Thursday 7/25. For more info and showtimes, please visit http://www.imagescinema.org