STORIES WE TELL
Running Time: 108 minutes
Cast: Michael Polley, Harry Gulkin, Susy Buchan, John Buchan, Mark Polley, Joanna Polley, Sarah Polley
Director: Sarah Polley
Screenplay: Sarah Polley
Cinematography: Iris Ng
I have been a huge fan of Sarah Polley’s ever since I first saw her luminous presence in Atom Egoyan’s films of the late 1990s. Since then she has become a writer and director to be reckoned with, and this touching, personal documentary shows her growth and maturity as a filmmaker.
The subject of this documentary is Sarah’s mother, the sometimes-actress Diane Polley. Diane died of cancer when Sarah, the youngest of a brood of siblings, was just eleven. Through interviews with her father, siblings, family friends and actors who worked with her, Polley assembles a portrait of her mother. Her father also reads from a poignant memoir he wrote about the marriage, and is a surprisingly good sport when it comes to taking direction from his daughter.
As she delves deeper into her subject, revelations come to light that would knock another filmmaker for a loop and possibly even discourage them from completing the project. Polley doesn’t abandon her film, and the result is a fascinating portrait of a capricious woman, but more importantly, a treatise on the subjectivity of memory.
While this is a very personal film, the actress never takes center stage. The film is firmly about Diane and the role she plays in the memories and narratives of other peoples’ lives. And how different these stories are is startling. Never before has the infallibility of memory been so ably evoked on screen.