Sarah Polley’s Movie About Her Family Looks Amazing

Slate's Culture Blog
March 6 2013 12:23 PM

Sarah Polley’s Movie About Her Family Looks Amazing

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Sarah Polley

Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images

When her second feature, the intimate Take This Waltz, was released in 2011, actress and filmmaker Sarah Polley shot down insinuations that the film was in any way autobiographical. (Like the protagonist, she had recently been divorced and begun a new relationship.) “I would make a documentary, maybe, but I would certainly never expose myself in a way that I would want to have other people dramatize,” she told the Toronto Sun. “Every short film I've ever made and my two feature films are all about long relationships, and another person, and the end of the long relationship.”

Polley has indeed turned to documentary for her latest project, Stories We Tell, which like her previous endeavors, is about a long relationship. This time, her subject matter is explicitly autobiographical, and features interviews with relatives—including her father, who provides narration from his own memoir. “I’m interested in the way we tell stories about our lives,” she explains in the trailer. “About the fact that the truth about the past is often ephemeral and difficult to pin down.”

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Reviews of the film—which has been on the festival circuit since last year and will have a U.S. theatrical release in May—have been deliberately coy about what exactly unfolds, and it looks like the less we know before going in, the better: Many surprises are apparently revealed throughout. Polley deploys a variety of documentary techniques to complement those family interviews, interspersing personal home movies with staged Super-8 re-enactments featuring actors portraying her family members as they were in the past.

Speculation over Polley’s personal connections to her previous films is unnecessary: Take this Waltz and Away From Her present gripping, complicated stories of their own. But it will be fascinating to learn what stories Polley and the people around her have told about her own life, particularly if, as this trailer suggests, those stories unfold like the different strands of a mystery, and are full of personal revelations.

Aisha Harris is a Slate culture blogger for Brow Beat. Follow her on Twitter.