Stories told in the movies are often unearthed from the bric-a-brac of our own lives, since life teems with narratives. For her first documentary, Sarah Polley lifted the veil on a family secret whose revealing caused her and her close ones much, much heartache.
Polley (“Take this Waltz“) is an Oscar-nominated writer, actress, and filmmaker who’s made two feature films about intimate relationships and the challenges faced. “Away From Her” is a compelling drama about a long marriage that is tested by disease.
Far from the usual navel-gazing and “hard-hitting” testimonials in “Stories” Polley conveys to her portrait gallery a filmmaker’s perspective that’s poignant and which derives the sort of emotion that’s not manufactured or eventually brushed aside. In fact, it is the capturing of this energy–the strength of this emotion which emanates from the “stories” that the “protagonists” tell one another around this secret–which Sarah Polley cultivates throughout her film.
“Stories” was done in collaboration with the National Film Board of Canada. Polley has commented in interviews, “I think it’s a universal thing in every family, that people have their own specific versions of pivotal events or even small memories. They are 100% certain that their recollections are the truth because whatever the truth is, as they recall it, has formed them and it is part of their history. Discrepancies in memory preoccupy families, and the idea of this fascinated me.”
But beyond the responsibility for remembering–and since we sometimes dumbly assign stuff to the recesses of the mind–there is an emerging artform, the artistic explosion which comes out of the realities of the interactions among this family, a family like any other. Throughout the film, and without judgment, Sarah Polley redefines herself and provides a great illustration of that unfailing link connecting art together with living.
Between tears and laughter, and with great precision “Stories” takes us on a voyage. One that’s simple but not simplistic, packed with work and with talent, which pleasantly combines art interfering with life and life interfering with art. Not one to be content with declaring her love to her family and to cinema, Sarah Polley has given us one of the most memorable human stories.