Stories We Tell

Synopsis: In this inspired, genre-twisting new film, Oscar®-nominated writer/director Sarah Polley discovers that the truth depends on who's telling it. Polley is both filmmaker and detective as she investigates the secrets kept by a family of storytellers. She playfully interviews and interrogates a cast of characters of varying reliability, eliciting refreshingly candid, yet mostly contradictory, answers to the same questions. As each relates their version of the family mythology, present-day recollections shift into nostalgia-tinged glimpses of their mother, who departed too soon, leaving a trail of unanswered questions. Polley unravels the paradoxes to reveal the essence of family: always complicated, warmly messy and fiercely loving. Stories We Tell explores the elusive nature of truth and memory, but at its core is a deeply personal film about how our narratives shape and define us as individuals and families, all interconnecting to paint a profound, funny and poignant picture of the large
Genre: Documentary
Director(s): Sarah Polley
Production: Roadside Attractions
  24 wins & 42 nominations.
Rotten Tomatoes:
108 min

"When you're

in the middle of a story,

"it isn't a story at all,

"but only a confusion,

"a dark roaring, a blindness,

"a wreckage of shattered glass

and splintered wood,

"like a house in a whirlwind,

"or else a boat

crushed by the icebergs

"or swept over the rapids,

"and all aboard

are powerless to stop it.

"It's only afterwards

"that it becomes anything

like a story at all,

"when you're telling it to yourself...

"or to someone else. "

How far am I gonna go up?

- Three flights.

- Just keep going.

Take a break when you need to.

Jolly good.

Here we are, then. Hi.

All right.

So this is where you're sitting.

- Right.

- Put this here.

Right, then.

Let's have a look and see... Oh.

So this is the first half.

This is what, love?

The first half

of what we're recording.

I'm going to do the whole lot?

Yeah, there's another...

- All this?

- Yeah.

It's the whole

of the thing that I wrote.

It's a thing of punishment.

Whose tea is that?

I know.

I just think that I might be

sweating through my shirt.

Yeah. I'm ready.

Keep it handy.

I don't like this.

- Are you nervous?

- A little.

It'll get worse.

I hope you'll

explain to me sometime

what all this is

that you're trying to do.

With two cameras

and me recording it visually.

What about it?

It's not the normal way

of doing it, is it?

I don't know.

We've told you it's a documentary,

but it's actually...

It's an interrogation process.


It's an interrogation process

that we've set up.

I honestly need pills.

Do you really?

- I'm so nervous.

- Are you really?

Are my teeth okay?

I feel like I'm sweating.

What's my frame?

Okay. How are my breasts?

Okay. Showtime.

Me? Do you want me?

Oh, I'm sorry.

Okay, Dad,

so we can start any time.

Are you rolling? Yeah.


We're off.

In the beginning, the end.

I am unique.

From that precise moment

when I was dragged out

of my mother's womb

into this cold world,

I was complete...

an amalgam of the DNA

passed on to me

by my mother and father,

and they too had been born

finished products,

with their DNA handed down

by their respective parents,

and so back ad infinitum.

It is clear to me

that I was always there,

somewhere in my ancestors' DNA,

just waiting to be born.

So this unique guy

has always existed,

even in the mystery

of nothingness.

So where to start?

Dad, can you tell the whole story?

The marriage to Mom

and everything

that happened since?

Good God.

The entire story?

I'm gonna ask you now

to tell the whole story

as though I don't know the story,

from the very beginning

to the very end.


Can you tell this whole story

from beginning to end

in your own words?

Like, as though you're telling

a story to someone.

Like a medley.

- A medley.

- Yeah, okay.

Can you describe the whole story

from the beginning

until now in your own words?



I guess I better pee first.


- Give me a moment.

- Take a pee.

What do you think

of this documentary being made?

You can be totally candid.

Can I?

A lot of people have been.

I guess I have

this instinctive reaction of

who f***ing cares

about our family?

Can I swear?

Who cares

about our stupid family?

I'm sort of embarrassed,

'cause I think it's our family,

and every family has a story.

But I do think it's really interesting

to look at this one thing

that happened

and how it's refracted

in so many different ways,

and there's so many different angles.

I guess if you could start

by describing Mom

in as much detail as possible.

Oh. Well, Mom, Mom.

I will refer her

to as "Mom," not Diane.

She was the most fun

I could think of as a child.

She was infectious, enthusiastic,

and excited about everything.

My memory of Mom is

of someone who was very loud.

She walked very heavily

and made the records skip.

And my impression is she was

a fun person at parties,

that she was a fun person

to have in an audience,

'cause she laughed loud.

You can't talk about Diane,

I don't think,

without talking about her laugh.

It infused every situation

that she was in.

What attracted people

to her was a sense of joy.

She had a contagious personality,

I thought,

and when I was really young,

I used to watch I Love Lucy,

and I actually thought

that was her,

because she was fun and goofy.

She was very warm.

She was full of life

and loved to dance

and loved to party

and laughing a lot,

and she loved to sing,

and she was the worst singer,

but she didn't mind.

She was sort

of a good-time Charlie.

There's a big tent within which you

can enjoy life with her.

And there are people

who just light up the life

for those people around her,

and people gravitate

to them like a moth to flame.

And that was her.

She also was very productive,

got a lot of things done.

She was a very busy person

and managed to juggle

lots of different things.

I remember her being

on the phone a lot, for example,

and I remember

the hand saying,

"Hold on! Shh! Hold on!"

Whenever I would meet Diane,

I always found

that she was in trouble.

Something she'd done...

she'd left something in a cab,

or she'd arrive saying,

"Oh, you have to come with me.

"I have to go there

because I've done this,

"and it's so stupid,"

and as we were walking,

she'd be ahead of me

trying to tell me

why everything was in disarray.

Whenever I would see her,

it seemed as though...

something was going wrong.

It was her fault,

and she was trying

to sort it out and correct it.

As I understand it,

Mom was doing plays,

and she met Michael

in one of those plays,

and she instantly

fell in love with him.

In 1965, Michael played Mick

in The Caretaker's

North American premiere.

He recalled an audience member

coming round

to the dressing rooms later

to congratulate the lead actor

and that he was introduced to her.

Her name was Diane,

and she loved the show so much

that she came back twice more

during the run.

I think Diane fell in love

not with me,

but with the character

I was playing on stage.

The character is something

that is so different from me.

It's such an exciting

and dominating character.

You can't take your eyes

off that character.

That's absolutely nothing

like me at all,

but you can see why

I would want to play it.

So isn't it ironic

that Diane turns up

to watch a performance

by an actor,

and as she watches

that performance, she sees,

"That person is exactly

what I've been looking for all my life.

"Somebody exciting,

somebody full of intrigue.

"That"s what I've been

looking for all my life. "

She was an actress herself,

and a few months later,

they'd play together

in The Condemned of Altona,

and that changed

their lives irrevocably.

Diane was playing

the part of the actress,

and me as the German officer.

Once again,

this is a fascinating character,

so even in that play,

we were playing two roles

rather than Michael and Diane.

And they talked

at a party afterwards,

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Sarah Polley

Sarah Ellen Polley OC (born January 8, 1979) is a Canadian actress, writer, director and political activist. Polley first garnered attention for her role as Sara Stanley in the Canadian television series Road to Avonlea. She has starred in many feature films, including Exotica, The Sweet Hereafter, Guinevere, Go, The Weight of Water, My Life Without Me, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, Dawn of the Dead, Splice, and Mr. Nobody. more…

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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