***1/2 (out of four)
At some point, everyone has a relative who says that their family would make a great movie/reality show or best-selling, tell-all book.
In “Stories We Tell,” director Sarah Polley's (“Away From Her,” “Take This Waltz”) fascinating look at her own family, Polley’s sister expresses a doubt likely conveyed after the aforementioned grand plans for the family history: “Who cares about our stupid family?”
Many people, if yours is anything like Polley’s. And that's not because of any zany antics or outrageous personalities, though some of Polley's siblings do have particular skill at popping humor into unexpected places. Rather, the actress and filmmaker's exploration of her late mother's personal life and the resulting questions about who Polley’s father is, expand into universal questions about the importance of stories and the fallibility of memories.
As one important contributor to the film notes, recollections may be faulty even if they aren't lies.
Neglecting to dig deeply into certain developments, from family members' divorces to her own ambiguous feelings about the secrets she uncovers, Polley perhaps overstates the inability to know someone else fully. Her compassion and curiosity, though, again mark her as both a heartfelt and unforgiving filmmaker. Hinging on a daring concept that pays off tremendously, “Stories We Tell” is a unifying yet sad account of the fragments between family members, the bonds that are bigger than blood and the details of unvarnished truth we can never get back.
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