Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Stories We Tell

This film is different. It can be classified across many genres - biography, autobiography, documentary and experimental. It is undoubtedly a film about story-telling which is Directed by and stars Sarah Polley. In the film she interviews her siblings, other relatives and family friends as her father narrates his memoire.

The central question Polley is trying to answer is "who is my biological father"? Is it the man who raised her or is it someone else - as the life-long persistent rumours have suggested. There is no question of her being phased by the outcome as it seems her relationships with the cast are sufficiently robust to weather any storm that the enquiries may summon.

If you like fast-moving action films this isn't for you. However, if you enjoy investigative film making and trying to decide who is telling the real truth, then you will love it. The film is comprehensive and the same questions are explored with different family members who manage quite often to retell different versions of the truth. Super 8 historical footage features throughout which adds a sense of realism to the story-telling.

This is undoubtedly a vital question for Sarah Polley to receive an answer to. It also has an importance for her wider family and the dynamics that inhabit their respective relationships. For me it was the methodology more than the substance that made this watchable. In depicting an almost utopian, liberal family where love outside of marriage was normative, I felt that the film lacked emotional impact and that we were watching a glorified family therapy session.

I won't spoil the outcome for you. If you are at all interested in story-telling and narrative art-forms, then watching this will serve you well. Both iMdb and Rotten Tomatoes are consistent, rating the film 76% and 79% respectively. The critics on Rotten Tomatoes score it at 94% - perhaps a formal background in media studies or film criticism enables you to appreciate it more? For me, I'll give it 7/10 and expect it to remain on the shelf for a long while.

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