Friday, 7 March 2014

Review - Stories We Tell (2012 - Dir. Sarah Polley)

Stories We Tell has intrigued me since I first read about it: a look into a family's life through interviews, old Super 8 footage and photographs, and it's Sarah Polley's family to boot. Seeing as though I love Shooting the Past and Perfect Strangers, I was always going to like this.

And in a predictable fashion, I do. Whereas the stories in the above dramas were completely cracking little tales, usually involving nazis somewhere along the way, the main story in Stories We Tell isn't really that interesting. But that's what makes it good. 

The film is all about the relationship between Sarah's parents, Michael and Diane Polley. Michael is a bit of a loner who quite likes the company of solitary flies (he's not that keen if there's more than one though) - a man after my own heart if ever there was one. Diane is a fun-loving extrovert who loves going out dancing. Not really a couple that you'd put together, but Stories We Tell documents their life together.

Interviews with Michael and his three other children (Sarah is the interviewer) form the bulk of Stories We Tell. There are other players in this tale, other people from the past, who also get their fair share of interview time. The stories they tell don't always gel, possibly due to their perspective and the unreliability of memory. 

These interviews are supplemented with photos and Super 8 films, both real and fake. The photos and real footage are great, as you'd expect. The fake footage meanwhile has the effect of pulling the viewer out of the story. At its worst, its like a really bad Crimewatch UK reconstruction. Except with a comedy porn tache. The actor playing Michael gets the job of wearing the offending furry item and it always raises a smile. It would have been preferable to have 100% real footage but obviously this isn't always possible. The fake footage is a compromise that is probably needed to help tell the story. Shame about the tache though.

The story isn't stunning in any shape or form. It is a slice of real life and that's what makes it so powerful. In films we generally expect stories to be really cleverly written with twists and turns and exciting incidents. But here we get a relatively simple story (not to say that there aren't some little twists) and we  can watch the effect it has on a family and the real emotional impact. This film has surely got something that will resonate with everyone. (Okay, maybe not with a reclusive pig coveting mountain man called Mary.)

This isn't a film that I would rewatch on a regular basis but it was an enjoyable experience nonetheless. I think, based on this evidence, that Sarah Polley has booked her place in a future FA Cup of Actors.

If you like this you could also try:
Shooting the Past, Perfect Strangers, Joe's Palace.